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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Clusters of New Coronavirus from Middle East Countries Add to Concern

Close contact can spread the novel coronavirus hCoV-EMC, but there's still no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, World Health Organization.

The French health ministry has confirmed its second case of the infection, which has caused 34 laboratory confirmed infections and 18 since September 2012. France's second case was a 50-year-old man who had shared a hospital room in northern France with a 65-year-old who fell ill after returning from Dubai. They shared the room for 3 days in late April, before the first patient's infection was confirmed on May 7. French investigators traced 120 contacts of the first patient and tested five for the virus, the WHO reported, and only the 50-year-old was infected. Nevertheless, the two cases add to the evidence that close contact with an infected person can lead to transmission of the virus. The clusters have the world's public health community "very much on the alert" because they are evidence the virus is contagious.

What genetic changes would let the virus put on its running shoes remains up in the air. The first cluster of cases was seen earlier this year in a family in England, whose index patient had also traveled to the Middle East. Two family members became ill and one died. Follow up of that family have found no other cases. Saudi Arabian health authorities are probing an outbreak in a healthcare facility, where 15 patients have been confirmed as infected, including seven who have died. The outbreak in 2002-2003 of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) spread rapidly in hospitals until health officials recognized the danger and isolated infected patients.
The novel virus is related to the SARS coronavirus, which has increased concern about it, both associated with severe respiratory illness, but the novel virus can also cause renal failure. On a genetic basis, they both appear to have originated in bats, although the flying mammals may not be the point of contact for humans. Although cases have been reported since last September, many gaps remain in the scientific knowledge about the virus, including:

Which animal is the reservoir of the virus?
The rate of mild disease, as opposed to the severe and life-threatening pneumonia that has grabbed headlines?
Why most patients have been older men, often with other medical conditions?
The route of infection -- animals, contaminated surfaces, or other people?
How widespread the virus is, both in the Middle East and elsewhere?
Source - ISTM Discussion List

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