Health Experts Worldwide Monitor New SARS-like Virus

Indications Virus Can Spread Person to Person

Yahoo Contributor Network

Seasonal influenza isn't the only flu illness that causes concern for health experts. Public health officials the world over are constantly monitoring what is and what may be developing in the area of viral illnesses. One of the organisms that has captured the attention of public health experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the World Health Organization is a SARS-like coronavirus .

Novel Coronavirus Demonstrates Ability to Spread From One Person to Another

Like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, virus, the novel coronavirus has recently shown the ability to be spread from one person to another, reported BBC News . British health officials believe one man in the United Kingdom caught this coronavirus from his father, who developed the infection after a trip to the Middle East and Pakistan.

If this new coronavirus, which has resulted in 11 cases of the illness with five resultant deaths, proves to be spread by human contact, there is a greater likelihood of it being spread than if the mechanism of contact was only through infected animals; the SARS virus was spread by close person-to-person contact with an infected person.

Likely Initial Source of Novel Coronavirus

Initially, public health officials theorized that the coronavirus could only be spread to people from animals -- most likely bats. Although this coronavirus has not been specifically isolated in any animals, but it is closely related to viruses in bats found in Asia, explained Dr. Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

Maria Zambon, director of reference microbiology services of the Health Protection Agency , HPA, explained that while bats are natural sources of coronaviruses, there are also some in cats and humans. At this time it can't be definitively proven that bats are the direct source of this novel coronavirus as the infection could have spread from bats originally to another animal.

Public Health Officials Watchfully Cautious

At this time, public health officials continue to study this new coronavirus, first identified in September 2012 in a person in Saudi Arabia, but feel it poses little danger to the general public. John Oxford, a virology expert at Queen Mary, University of London, explained that even if it is determined that one family member passed this coronavirus illness to another family member, it raises less concern than if the illness spread to a more general contact or health care professional, as family members interact in close proximity, meaning the spread of the illness from one person to another would be unlikely unless very close personal contact were made.

Bottom Line

It is reassuring to learn that public health officials will continue to closely monitor this newly identified coronavirus. At this time, no cases of this illness have been identified outside the Middle East or Europe, with only one suspected incident of close human contact as a mode of infection.

No travel restrictions have been issued by any public health agency at this point, while watchful waiting and research continues.

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