The United Nation's health body has issued a global alert after a new respiratory virus that closely resembles SARS was discovered in a critically ill man in a British hospital
LONDON, United Kingdom -- The World Health Organization has issued a global alert after a virus closely resembling the deadly SARS virus has been discovered in a Qatari man in a British hospital.
The 49-year-old man has recently been travelling to Saudi Arabia, where a second patient with an almost identical virus had already died.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was first discovered in China in 2002. At the end of that year, it nearly became a pandemic in Hong Kong, where within months more than 8,000 cases were reported - 900 of which resulted in death. The viral disease was thought to have been contained with no further human infections reported since June 2003 - until now.
The UN health body confirmed tests on the Qatari man revealed the presence of a new SARS-like virus, which is very similar or identical to the virus found in a Saudi Arabian man who died earlier this year.
"This is now an international issue because we have a case in the UK and one in Saudi," World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl said.
"The (Qatari) patient is still alive but, as we understand, in critical condition," he said.
The Qatari man first showed symptoms of an acute respiratory infection and kidney failure while he was in Qatar, the WHO said, before he was transferred to a London hospital for further diagnosis and treatment.
The British Health Protection Agency issued a note listing the symptoms as "fever, cough and breathing difficulties", and advised that for the time being "any person recently returning from Saudi Arabia or Qatar with a serious respiratory illness should be managed in strict respiratory isolation."
The World Health Organization said it is trying to determine the public health implications of the two cases but isn't currently recommending travel restrictions.