A SARS-like virus that caused a global alert earlier this year is on the move again, spreading to Saudi Arabia where it has already killed two people.
The total number of cases of the SARS-like virus has reached six, the World Health Organization reported.
An international alert for the SARS-like virus went out in September after a man in Qatar came down with the virus, which Reuters reported had not yet been seen in humans. Since the virus spread there, health officials had been vigilant to keep track of its progress.
“The additional cases have been identified as part of the enhanced surveillance in Saudi Arabia (3 cases, including 1 death) and Qatar (1 case),” the WHO said.
The SARS-like virus is known as a conavirus, sharing some of the symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. After first showing up in China in 2002, SARS affected about 8,000 people worldwide, killing close to 800.
“It took the outbreak in Hong Kong and subsequent spread to bring that to our attention,” Dr. William Schaffner, who chairs preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University. said of the 2003 SARS outbreak. “The surveillance for viruses that cause disease, particularly respiratory viruses, has improved enormously over the last 10 years worldwide. What happened here demonstrates that.”
The SARS-like virus has no formal name, though scientists at the British and Dutch laboratories where it was identified have been calling it “London1_novel CoV 2012″.