The Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the United Kingdom is confirming a second case of novel coronavirus infection in a family member of the case announced on Feb. 11, 2013. The patient, who is a UK resident, does not have any recent travel history and is currently receiving intensive care treatment at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. It is understood that this patient has an existing medical condition that may make them more susceptible to respiratory infections. This latest case brings the total number of confirmed cases globally to 11, of which three have been diagnosed in the UK.
Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, says, "Confirmed novel coronavirus infection in a person without travel history to the Middle East suggests that person-to-person transmission has occurred, and that it occurred in the UK. This case is a family member who was in close personal contact with the earlier case and who may have been at greater risk of acquiring an infection because of their underlying health condition.
Watson adds, "“To date, evidence of person-to-person transmission has been limited. Although this case provides strong evidence for person to person transmission, the risk of infection in most circumstances is still considered to be very low. If novel coronavirus were more infectious, we would have expected to have seen a larger number of cases than we have seen since the first case was reported three months ago. However, this new development does justify, the measures that were immediately put into place to prevent any further spread of infection and to identify and follow up contacts of known cases. We will continue to provide advice and support to healthcare workers looking after the patients and to contacts of both cases."
Watson continues, ""In light of this latest case we would like to emphasize that the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains very low. The HPA will continue to work closely with national and international health authorities and will share any further advice with health professionals and the public if and when more information becomes available."
Professor Maria Zambon, director of reference microbiology services at the HPA, notes, “A battery of laboratory tests have been developed by the HPA to test for coronavirus infection when cases of severe respiratory illness are identified, which are not explained by other infectious causes. These tests, which detect the presence of virus in the body, are available for use by selected frontline HPA laboratories. In mid-November the HPA published the full genome sequence from the first UK patient, enabling scientists around the world to understand more about the diversity of this virus. This will help with efforts to determine the origin of the virus and develop strategies for treatment and prevention.”
Coronaviruses are causes of the common cold but can also include more severe illness, such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). This new coronavirus was first identified in September 2012 in a patient who died from a severe respiratory infection in June 2012. The virus has so far only been identified in a small number of cases of acute, serious respiratory illness who presented with fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties.
Source: Health Protection Agency