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New virus doesn't spread easily person-to-person, WHO says

September 28, 2012 |  4:28 pm

A new virus that has killed one person and landed another in a London hospital does not appear to spread easily from person to person, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The discovery this month of a never-before-seen coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that range from the common cold to the SARS virus that killed hundreds, had caused fear that it might spread further. The fact that the two known cases were linked to Saudi Arabia added to the concern, with millions of people headed to the country for an annual Muslim religious pilgrimage.

However, no new cases have emerged since Britain informed the WHO last week that a 49-year-old Qatari man with a history of traveling to Saudi Arabia  was suffering a severe respiratory infection. The first case was a 60-year-old Saudi national who died of the infection this year.

Though the virus does not appear to be spreading, the United Nations agency said it was still monitoring the situation, given the severity of the two known cases of the new virus. It has not recommended any travel or trade restrictions for Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

European Center for Disease Prevention and Control scientists wrote in a newly published paper that the infection probably originated with animals. Though it is in the same family of viruses as SARS, it is “quite different in behavior from SARS,” the scientists wrote in the  Eurosurveillance  journal.

The two people known to have been infected with the new virus suffered from fever, coughing and shortness of breath.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles