We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

FILE Jorge Saenz/AP/Press Association Images

SARS-like virus detected in Qatari national

The 49-year-old man became ill in early September, having travelled to Saudi Arabia. He is now after being transferred to a London hospital.

BRITISH HEALTH AUTHORITIES have alerted the UN of a new respiratory virus that resembles SARS in a severely ill patient who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia — where another man died of a similar illness earlier this year.

The man in the new case was sickened by a coronavirus, which causes most common colds but also causes SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. In 2003, SARS killed hundreds of people, mostly in Asia, in a short-lived outbreak.

Saudi Arabia

Britain’s Health Protection Agency and the World Health Organisation said in statements that the 49-year-old Qatari national became ill on September 3, having previously traveled to Saudi Arabia.

He was transferred from Qatar to Britain on September 11 and is being treated in an intensive care unit at a London hospital for problems including kidney failure.

The Health Protection Agency said it was unaware of any ties the patient had to Britain but that he likely was in a private clinic in the Middle East before being transferred to a London hospital. None of the health workers involved in his care has so far fallen ill with any flu-like illnesses, the agency said.

The UN health agency says virus samples from the patient are almost identical to those of a 60-year-old Saudi national who died earlier this year.


Experts said it was unclear how dangerous the virus is. “We don’t know if this is going to turn into another SARS or if it will disappear into nothing,” said Michael Osterholm, a flu expert at the University of Minnesota. He said it was crucial to determine the ratio of severe to mild cases.

Osterholm also said more information was needed on how the virus is spread — whether it’s spread as easily as a common cold or, as in the case of SARS, mostly through close contact and via specific medical procedures like a lung intubation.

He said it was worrying that there had been at least one death from the new virus.

You don’t die from the common cold. This gives us reason to think it might be more like SARS.

The SARS virus was particularly deadly and killed about 10 percent of the people it infected. The World Health Organisation says it is trying to determine the public health implications of the two cases but isn’t currently recommending travel restrictions.

Officials are also concerned the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage next month could provide more opportunities for the virus to spread. The Hajj has previously sparked outbreaks of diseases including flu, meningitis and polio.

Read: Superdrug could cure all viral infections>

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.