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New SARS-like virus detected in Middle East

The United Nations health body has issued a statement through its global alert and response system warning of a new, novel coronavirus similar to SARS.

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The United Nations has issued a warning about a potential new SARS virus. (JORGE DIRKX/AFP/Getty Images)

The World Health Organization has issued a statement through its global alert and response system warning of a new coronavirus similar to SARS. The virus is thought to have killed one and left another in critical condition.

"Given that this is a novel coronavirus, WHO is currently in the process of obtaining further information to determine the public health implications," the WHO statement read.

The new virus was first detected in a 49-year-old Qatari man who presented with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection on Sept. 3. According to Reuters, on Sept. 7, the patient was admitted to an intensive care unit in Doha, Qatar. On Sept. 11, he was transferred to Britain by air ambulance.

The UN health agency reported that the virus samples from the patient are nearly identical to those of a 60-year-old Saudi national who died earlier this year, Bloomberg reported

Peter Openshaw, director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London, told Reuters that there may not be an immediate cause for concern over the newly detected virus as it may have only been detected because of the sophisticated testing techniques used on the patient. 

But Michael Osterholm, a flu expert at the University of Minnesota, noted to Bloomberg that the death of the 60-year-old Saudi national should be alarming. "You don't die from the common cold," he said. "This gives us reason to think it might be more like SARS."

According to The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA), it is not yet clear if this virus will be widespread. Instead this warning is being used to provide advice to healthcare workers on how to spot similar symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath and other respiratory issues.

"As we are aware of only two cases worldwide and there is no evidence of ongoing transmission, at present there is no specific action for the public or returning travelers to take but we will share any further advice with the public as soon as more information becomes available," it added.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/120924/new-sars-virus-detected-middle-east