Deadly Coronavirus: How Can The SARS-like Virus Spread Between People?

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 13, 2013 10:43 AM EDT

coronavirus
The deadly coronavirus, a SARS-like virus which has infected 34 people and killed 18, appears to be passing from person to person. (Photo: Reuters)

The World Health Organization said on Sunday that a SARS-like virus that has killed at least 18 people can likely be passed between humans.

The new coronavirus, which is from the same family as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that killed 775 people worldwide in 2003, has infected at least 34 people since emerging in the Middle East last year. Most of the 34 diagnosed cases of the virus have been found in Saudi Arabia, with other "clusters" of the virus appearing in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar.

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Last week, a 65-year-old Frenchman was hospitalized with the virus after returning from a trip to Dubai. Now a 51-year-old Frenchman who shared a hospital room with him has contracted the virus too.

It appears right now that the virus is currently being spread between people in close contact. According to one public health expert who declined to be identified, "close contact" is being in the same small, enclosed space with an infected person for a prolonged period.

Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General of the WHO, said that so far there is no evidence that the coronavirus can sustain "generalized transmission in communities." If that were the case, the virus could reach the levels of a pandemic. Fukuda added, "Of most concern is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact, this novel coronavirus can transmit from person to person."

French health authorities said on Sunday that they are identifying and testing people who have come into contact with the second Frenchman who contracted the virus. In the case of the first Frenchman, health officials identified and tested 100 people with whom he'd come into recent contact; only one of those cases turned up positive symptoms.   

The coronavirus is highly deadly. In Saudi Arabia, nine of the 15 recent confirmed cases have resulted in death, according to Saudi Deputy Health Minister for Public Health Ziad. Since last summer, there have been a total of 24 cases of the virus there, with 15 people dying from it.

Cases of the coronavirus have also been found in Britain and Germany.

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