WHO Finds New Virus Similar to SARS

But don't freak out yet, expert says
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2012 3:03 AM CDT
WHO Finds New Virus Similar to SARS
A man reads a newspaper next to a poster urging people to wear masks during the influenza season at Queen Marry Hospital in Hong Kong Tuesday, April 28, 2009.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Time to panic? The World Health Organization says it has identified a new SARS-like virus, but an expert says there's no reason yet to worry. The new coronavirus—a family of viruses that includes both SARS and the common cold—was identified in a 49-year-old Qatari man who had recently visited Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports. He went to the doctor with acute respiratory infection symptoms Sept. 3, was admitted to intensive care in Qatar on Sept. 7, and was flown to Britain via air ambulance Sept. 11.

"Given that this is a novel coronavirus, WHO is currently in the process of obtaining further information to determine the public health implications," reads a WHO statement. Scientists compared the virus to another that killed a 60-year-old Saudi national earlier this year and found the two were nearly identical, but an expert says that since they appear to be unrelated, this could just be "some rare event that in past times might have been undiagnosed" and advises being "watchful, but not immediately concerned." SARS killed 800 people in 2002 after first appearing in China. (Read more SARS stories.)

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