Man, 49, fighting deadly Sars copycat virus is attached to artificial lung at specialist London hospital
Patient held in quarantine after infected by 'new' strainHospital following strict infection prevention proceduresMan became ill in Qatar but had recently travelled to Saudi ArabiaHe was allowed to fly into the UK on private jet to private hospital but was only diagnosed with the virus once he had entered the country
Qatari man moved to NHS hospital when his condition worsenedOnly one other man in the world has been infected with SARS-like virusMan in Saudi Arabia died after contracting the virus three months agoPossible small number of other cases are 'being investigated'
16:48 GMT, 25 September 2012
A man fighting a Sars-like virus in a British hospital has been connected to an artificial lung to keep him alive.
The 49-year-old, who was born in Qatar but is believed to have been living in Britain, is being treated in an intensive care unit at Guy's and St Thomas’ hospital in London.
He is being treated is isolation after apparently catching the new type of coronavirus in Saudi Arabia.
Scientists have likened the infection to Sars, which claimed 900 lives worldwide between 2002 and 2003.
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Health experts said the patient had recently travelled to Saudi Arabia (pictured), where another man has died as a result of the virus
A spokeswoman for the hospital said that the man, who is in isolation, is receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (Ecmo) treatment, which delivers oxygen to the blood outside the body when the lungs are not able to. It also continuously pumps blood into and around the body.
'We are one of five designated specialist centres in the UK to offer this treatment,' she said.
'We are following strict infection prevention and control procedures to protect patients and staff.
'There is no evidence that the virus has been transmitted to any other patient or member of staff. However, staff involved in caring for this patient are being followed up by occupational health as a precaution.'
It is only the second confirmed case of the new illness – like Sars, a type of coronavirus – anywhere in the world.
One other man, aged 60, is known to have died in Saudi Arabia in July, although experts believe there may be other victims.
Last night the Health Protection Agency confirmed it was investigating a third possible case.
They believe a patient may have died in Britain from the same illness, having also contracted it in the Middle East.
At present the HPA does not know how much of a threat this new virus poses to the general public.
Coronaviruses cause most common colds but can also cause Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
In 2003, a Sars outbreak hit more than 30 countries worldwide when the disease jumped to humans from civet cats in China before spreading to Hong Kong.
Scientists say it is highly unlikely
it will be anywhere near as dangerous as Sars, although they are
monitoring the situation very closely.
The HPA has ordered checks to be carried out on anyone who came into contact with the Qatari patient.
Deadly: SARS viruses can be seen in and surrounding a cell
It is believed he developed a severe chest infection while back in Qatar, after catching the virus in Saudi Arabia.
When the illness worsened, the patient – or his family – then arranged for him to be flown privately by air ambulance to the UK on September 11.
Initially he was treated at a private
hospital in London but was then transferred to a larger NHS trust in the
capital, which specialises in treating respiratory infections.
He is currently being treated in an
isolation unit and requires intensive care. It is not known whether he
is likely to survive. All medical staff who come into contact with him
are wearing masks and protective gloves.
The HPA will not confirm where he is being treated, or his identity.
Scientists last night said they would be ‘watching carefully and waiting’ to see whether any more cases emerged.
Both confirmed victims suffered from
fever, a cough and breathing difficulties. But the pair had never met,
so scientists think at least one other person in Saudi Arabia had the
virus and passed it on.
Hundreds of people died in 2003 after a Sars outbreak in Asia (file picture)
Professor Peter Openshaw, director of
the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London, said:
‘For now, we need to be watchful: any evidence of human to human
transmission causing severe disease would be very worrying and would
raise the spectre of a new Sars-like outbreak.
'The hope for now is that these cases
are just highly unusual presentations of a generally mild infection, and
that viral surveillance and detection is now so good that we are
picking up cases that would not have been found in previous times.’
Professor Andrew Easton, a virus
expert at the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick,
said: ‘At this point it is a case of watching carefully and waiting as
more data accumulates.
‘Given that this is a respiratory
infection and there have only been two cases over several months, it is
not likely to represent a serious threat.
‘However, it is important to be
watchful and to monitor for any future cases to obtain a better
understanding of the true risk.’
Professor Easton said it was possible
the virus was initially passed on from animal droppings, just like Sars
which is thought to have come from bats.
At present the World Health Organisation says there is no reason for tourists not to visit the Middle East.
Video: World Health Organisation spokesman admits lethal virus is not understood
A 'NEW' TYPE OF POTENTIALLY DEADLY CORONAVIRUS: WHAT DO WE KNOW
Coronaviruses were first identified in the mid 1960s and
are a group of viruses causing respiratory infections in humans and
This is the first time this particular strain of coronavirus has been
identified in the UK and only the second time in the world – in both
cases the infection was acquired in the Middle East.
The virus was
identified by the Health Protection Agency's virus reference
laboratories at Colindale.
It is genetically the same as one recently
isolated in a laboratory in Saudi Arabia, which was then confirmed.
SARS was also caused by a coronavirus. The two cases have experienced a serious respiratory illness which makes it similar to SARS.
Coronaviruses can cause a range of symptoms varying from mild symptoms
such as the common cold to more serious respiratory illnesses.
As this particular strain has only been recently found there is limited information on its severity and transmission.
In terms of symptoms, the virus has been identified in two cases of acute,
serious respiratory illness who had fever, cough, shortness
of breath, and breathing difficulties.
At this point it is not clear
whether these cases are typical of infection with this virus or whether
it could be circulating more widely, but causing a milder illness, and
only very rarely causing a severe illness.
There is not yet enough information to make specific treatment
However, acute respiratory support for those with
severe symptoms and who have been hospitalised would be advised.
Coronaviruses are typically spread like other respiratory infections
such as influenza.
This infection is therefore likely to be passed from
person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes, though much
is unknown at this stage.