UK Hunts For Plane Passengers Who Flew With First Victim Of Sars-Like Virus

A search has begun for plane passengers who sat near a British man with the Sars-like virus to stop it spreading globally.

The infected man, a Briton who traveled back to London on January 28 after a trip to Saudi Arabia, passed it on to his 39-year-old son who died last Sunday in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital in the UK.

British medical specialists now fear the first infected carrier — the father — could have given it to others on the plane.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has confirmed that passengers who sat near to the man on the flight back from Saudi Arabia are being tracked down in order to test them for the virus.

A HPA spokesperson told MailOnline that the hunt was a standard procedure for any type of infectious disease.

“Besides the identified secondary cases, all tests carried out on contacts to date have been negative for the novel coronavirus infection,” it said.

Family and friends of the first, infected carrier are also being traced. A second relative of that man that has also been diagnosed with a mild form of the illness but has since recovered, the Mail added.

The illness, which the World Health Organization has called novel coronavirus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. It symptoms first as a cough, before the sufferer develops breathing difficulties which can lead to fever, pneumonia, and kidney failure.

The man on the flight later infected his 39-year-old son, who died at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Sunday

The virus is from the same virus family as Sars, which claimed 900 lives worldwide in 2002 and 2003. However, it’s thought the Coronavirus has difficulty spreading between humans.

In total, there are 12 known cases of people who have caught the coronavirus, including five in Saudi Arabia, four in the UK, two in Jordan, and one in Germany.

So far, six of the 12 have died. It is not known exactly how the British victim died, but medics revealed he was suffering from a long-term condition which made him more susceptible to the illness.

Officials have already tested more than 100 people in the UK, including family and friends of victims and six hospital staff who continue to be “closely monitored,” the Daily Mirror reports.

Last week the Queen Elizabeth Hospital said the 39-year-old’s stay in its intensive care unit was monitored under strict infection controls.

The man’s father is still being treated at a hospital in Manchester.

Scientists believe the illness may be spread through bat droppings or through water emissions from coughs and sneezes.

Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said:

“This case [the man who died on Sunday] is a family member who was in close personal contact with the earlier case and who may have been at greater risk of acquiring an infection because of their underlying health condition.”

He added:

‘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.”