UN Warns International Travelers Of New SARS Virus
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global alert today, warning of a newly identified SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) found in a Qatari patient now being treated in the United Kingdom. Although the WHO did not issue specific travel warnings yet, it is awaiting any evidence that this, the most deadly kind of upper respiratory infection you can get, poses a serious public health risk.
The 49-year old Qatari man is the second patient identified to date as having a new strain of the SARS coronavirus; the first case was identified by Dutch scientists earlier this year from the lung tissue of a 60-year old man from Saudi Arabia who died from the disease. Though the Qatari man had traveled to Saudi Arabia, UK scientists do not think there is a connection between the two SARS events and are currently thinking that this 'new' strain of SARS is actually an 'old' strain not previously identified.
SARS appeared as a new virus in 2002 in Hong Kong and, within a year, this highly contagious disease had infected 8,422 people, killing 916. The greatest fatality rate, according to the WHO, is among adults over the age of 65. In those above 65 years of age the death rate from SARS is more than 50 percent; in the same group, the death rate from the flu is usually about 0.6 percent, although it may be much higher in severe epidemics of new strains.
The symptoms of SARS are similar to a cold or flu, including a cough, fever, muscle aches, and headache, but there is a more pronounced difficulty with breathing. A visit to the doctor might reveal abnormal lung sounds, and an X-ray may indicate pneumonia, which is common in SARS. Though PubMed Health indicates that SARS is hard to identify during the first week, there are helpful treatments, such as antibiotics, that may be administered early, regardless of the eventual diagnosis.
September 28, 2012 UPDATE: The World Health Organization announced today that the NEW strain of SARS is not easily passed from human to human, and that the two human cases observed to date were most likely acquired from animals. Source: USNews