WHO Expands Surveillance Following New Cases of Sars-like Virus in Saudi Arabia Family

Posted on November 29, 2012

The new Sars-like novel coronavirus has re-emerged after first being discovered in September. There was a lack of cases following the initial discovery of the virus and three cases, including one death. This was a hopeful sign that the new virus did not spread easily among humans. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported two new lab confirmed cases in the same family in Saudi Arabia, with one death. WHO says two other members of this family also presented with similar symptoms - one died and the other is recovering. WHO says lab results of this possible second fatal case within the same family are still pending.

Dr. Larry Anderson, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University, told NPR that the infections in the same family don't necessarily confirm human-to-human transmission. He says, "There is a possibility that it represents person-to-person transmission, but it's also possible that the family members were exposed to a common animal source of the virus, too."

The total number of laboratory confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus is now six, with two deaths. This is still very low, but given the unique nature and severe symptoms associated with the virus, the WHO is taking the precaution of recommending an expansion of surveillance to monitor for the appearance of the virus in other countries. WHO is not currently advising any travel or trade restrictions. You can find the surveillance recommendations here.