The novel coronavirus responsible for causing severe pneumonia in 11 patients worldwide is distantly related to the SARS virus, and has so far claimed the lives of half of those infected. But experts emphasised yesterday it was not the same.
SARS infected almost 9,000 people and caused over 800 deaths worldwide in less than six months.
However, in spreading from human to human in Britain, the new virus has already achieved what the SARS virus did not. Only four cases of SARS were recorded in Britain in 2003, all imported and none contracted here.
The latest patient to contract the new illness in Britain had an existing medical condition which is likely to have made them more susceptible to infection, as well as being a close relative of the earlier case. It is not therefore an indication of the likely risk to the wider community.
Nevertheless, the World Health Organisation has urged vigilance in case the new virus should become “sufficiently transmissible to cause community outbreaks.”