Sars-like virus spreads person-to-person in the UK

Relative of Manchester patient now in hospital with infection

Health Editor

The first case of human to human transmission of a potentially fatal respiratory illness similar to the deadly Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) was confirmed in Britain today.

The patient is in a stable condition in intensive care in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, and is believed to have caught the infection from a close family relative who had travelled to the Middle East.

The relative is seriously ill and was transferred from Birmingham to Wythenshawe hospital, Manchester, this week for treatment on an ECMO machine, a last resort  to oxygenate the blood when the lungs have failed.

A third patient, the first in the UK who was flown here  from Quatar for treatment, has been seriously ill in St Thomas’ Hospital, London since September.

UK laboratories have been put on alert to test all new cases of unexplained severe pneumonia for the virus, to prevent a potentially lethal  outbreak .

The Health Protection Agency said the current risk was “low” because the virus had “limited” capacity to spread. But a spokesperson for the agency added: “It could mutate. We don’t know how it will behave.”

The illness is caused by a novel type of coronavirus, a family of viruses responsible for infections ranging  from the common cold to severe pneumonia. In 2003, a novel coronavirus caused  an outbreak of SARS in the Far East which spread to 20 countries within a month, led to hundreds of deaths and triggered a global panic.

The new virus  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, all imported and none contracted here.   

Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: “To date, evidence of person-to-person transmission has been limited. Although this case provides strong evidence for person to person transmission, the risk of infection in most circumstances is still considered to be very low.” 

“ If the novel coronavirus were more infectious, we would have expected to have seen a larger number of cases than we have seen since the first case was reported three months ago. However, this new development does justify the measures that were immediately put into place to prevent any further spread of infection and to identify and follow up contacts of known cases.”

The patient who contracted the illness in Britain had an existing medical condition which was likely to have made them more susceptible to infection, as well as being a close relative of the earlier case, Professor Watson said. It was not therefore an indication of the likely risk to the wider community.

 The novel coronavirus responsible for the illness was first identified last September in a patient who had died the previous June and is believed to have come from contact with bats.  Previous  cases have been identified in Quatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Some suffered  kidney failure as well as serious respiratory problems.

The World Health Organisation said it was closely monitoring the situation and working to “ensure a high degree of preparedness should the new virus be found to be sufficiently transmissible to cause community outbreaks.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
There are no plans to replace R Kelly at the event
music
News
newsThis 8-year-old boy carried his disabled brother through a triathlon
Sport
The Manchester United team walk out ahead of the pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Inter Milan at FedExField
transfers
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Lead Application Developer

    £80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

    Year 3 Welsh Teacher vacancy in Penarth

    £110 - £120 per day + Travel Scheme and Free training: Randstad Education Card...

    Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

    Male Behaviour Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

    £55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz