New SARS-Like Virus Discovered In Middle East, WHO Issues Warning

Scientists have recently discovered a new SARS-like virus in the Middle East and are currently trying to unravel where the virus came from as well as how to treat it effectively.

The virus in question is a new type of coronavirus, which comes from the same family as the common cold but also brought Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), reports CNN.

Two patients have been infected with the hard-hitting virus so far, both of whom are in the Middle East. One victim is a 49-year-old male from Qatar who was transferred to the UK on September 11 and is currently listed in critical condition. The other is a 60-year-old Saudi Arabian man who was treated for the virus back in June but has since passed away.

While the Qatari man did travel to Saudi Arabia before he fell ill, World Health Organization officials don’t believe there’s a connection between the two victims.

Both patients had the same symptoms of severe respiratory illness-like pneumonia and kidney failure. Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki at the Virology Laboratory of Dr. Soliman Fakeeh Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has been credited with finding the new virus. He took a sample from the Saudi patient’s lungs before he passed and compared it to other cold and flu viruses as well as the SARS virus.

When none of them matched, he realized he was dealing with a new virus, which a leading coronavirus researcher studied and believes more closely resembles the SARS virus than the common cold.

Boston.com notes that health officials aren’t yet sure if the virus has the potential to spread as quickly as SARS did or if it could kill as many people. WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl stated:

“It’s still (in the) very early days. At the moment, we have two sporadic cases and there are still a lot of holes to be filled in.”

It is also unclear how the virus spreads, because officials have no human-to-human transmissions yet. They believe the two confirmed patients were infected directly by animals. Hartl added that, “All possible avenues of infection are being explored right now.”

Michael Osterholm, a flu expert at the University of Minnesota, stated how crucial it was to determine the ration of severe to mild cases of the new virus. He added that:

“We don’t know if this is going to turn into another SARS or if it will disappear into nothing. You don’t die from the common cold. This gives us reason to think it might be more like SARS.”

The SARS virus killed roughly 10 percent of the people it infected. The living patient is currently being treated in London hospital’s intensive care unit for problems that include kidney failure.