Saudi officials have reported that five people have died after being exposed to a Sars-like virus. Two others are extremely ill. Saudi health officials reported that all of the seven cases were from as-Ahsa governorate located in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia.
The virus is called the novel coronavirus, NCoV; it has been shown to cause pneumonia and in some cases it can even cause the kidneys to fail. This virus comes from the same virus family responsible for the Sars, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus that started in Asia during 2003.
The SPA released a statement that said that the Saudi health officials reported that they were “taking all precautionary measures for persons who have been in contact with the infected people… and has taken samples from them to examine if they are infected.”
The ministry did not give any details regarding the number of people that they tested for the virus.
The World Health Organization issued a statement that said that the cases did not originate from the same family and that early investigation showed no evidence of recent contact with animals or travel in any cases that had been confirmed.
It is thought that the threat to most in the general population is small, but there have been cases reported in the UK, and Germany, as well as in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Additionally, it has shown that it can spread among people.
In March, the World Health Organization reported that they had been told of 17 cases of NCoV that were confirmed around the world, and that included 11 deaths. The last known fatality from this virus was in March. He was 73 years old and was from the United Arab Emirates.
In February, three members of one family were infected with the virus, and one died in Birmingham, England. In this case, officials believe that the family member contracted the virus during travels to Pakistan and the Middle East.
While it is not clear where the new virus started, or its methods for spreading, some speculate that it originated in animals. Some believe that the novel coronavirus is a mutation of a virus that animals carry. This may be even more likely since the virus also has the potential to cause animals to become terribly ill as well as people.
There is no vaccine for this virus, but by seeking medical attention patients can have assistance breathing while the virus runs its course. In the case of one death in the UK, the victim had a weakened immune system which likely exacerbated the symptoms and ultimately caused the patient’s death.
Despite the potential severity of the virus, experts feel that it is not generally very contagious. This is especially true since the virus is so fragile and cannot live outside the body for more than 24 hours. This virus is also easy to destroy with common cleansers and cleaning agents.