Saudi Arabian death marks 15th novel coronavirus case

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Mar 12, 2013 (CIDRAP News) – A 39-year-old Saudi Arabian man died on Mar 2 of a novel coronavirus (NCoV) infection, marking the world's 15th case and 9th death from the mysterious virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today.

The WHO gave few details other than to say that the man got sick on Feb 24 and was hospitalized Feb 28. A preliminary investigation found that he had had no contact with other case-patients, but other possible exposures are under investigation, the agency said. The statement did not say where the man lived or give other information about the nature of his illness.

Eight of the world's 15 NCoV cases, including six fatal ones, have occurred in Saudi Arabia. Two fatal cases have been reported in Jordan, two cases involved Qataris, and three, with one death, were in a family cluster in the United Kingdom. All 15 patients had direct or indirect links with the Arabian Peninsula through residence or travel. The UK cluster marked the first clear evidence of person-to-person spread of the virus and showed that mild cases can occur.

Today's announcement comes less than a week after the Mar 6 news of Saudi Arabia's most recent previous case, involving a 69-year-old man who died Feb 19. Before that, another fatal Saudi Arabian case was disclosed Feb 21, involving a patient who died on Feb 10. Very little information was provided on either of those cases, though the WHO said the 69-year-old had had no contact with other NCoV patients and had not traveled recently.

The WHO said all countries should continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and carefully review any unusual patterns. Reiterating previous comments, the agency said it is not recommending special screening at border stations or any travel or trade restrictions in connection with the new case.

The novel virus was first identified last fall, though the first known cases occurred in Jordan in April 2012 and were identified retrospectively. The new case is the sixth reported this year.

The source of the virus has not been identified, though it is related to coronaviruses found in bats in a number of countries.

As a coronavirus, the novel pathogen is related to the virus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which came to the world's attention exactly a decade ago today.

It was on Mar 12, 2003, that the WHO issued an alert over a severe respiratory illness that was occurring mainly in southern China, with a few cases in Vietnam. The SARS outbreak eventually expanded to more than 8,000 cases with about 900 deaths in 30 countries. The WHO declared it contained on Jul 7, 2003, and very few cases were reported after that.

See also:

Mar 12 WHO announcement

Mar 6 CIDRAP News story "WHO confirms another novel coronavirus death"

Mar 13, 2003, CIDRAP News story about outbreak later identified as SARS

Mar 12, 2003, WHO alert about original SARS outbreak

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