New SARS-Like Virus Is Spreading—Slowly

A novel coronavirus identified earlier this year is slowly—very slowly—spreading

An electron micrograph of the coronavirus.
An electron micrograph of the coronavirus. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Earlier this year the World Health Organization raised concerns over the infection of two men with a new coronavirus, a type of virus similar to the one that had caused the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Since then, the virus, which can cause pneumonia and kidney failure, has killed five people.

Back in September, when the WHO first made their announcement, Smart News wrote about the emergence of the new virus and the fears at the time that a densely-packed group of people coming together for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, could drive a proliferation of the disease through the group. With people traveling to Mecca from around the world, the worry was that the coronavirus would get a world-wide kick as visitors returned home.

That worst-case scenario, fortunately, never played out. But, says the BBC, 11 cases of the coronavirus have now been detected worldwide, with five of those cases ending with the infected person’s death. More troubling still, the BBC reports that health officials think that at least one of the people fell sick by catching the virus from a relative. The possibility that a disease can be transmitted not only from an animal or other pathway but from person-to-person always increases its potential threat.

Though the disease is deadly, researchers have been quick to assuage any undue worry, according to the BBC. Plenty of people may have been infected and shown only mild symptoms, these researcher think. Here’s Prof. Ian Jones, from the University of Reading:

“Although it is severe, it’s not doing anything worse than some other respiratory infections, it’s just a new one.”

That’s not exactly reassuring, but it could be worse.

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