Wealthy Qatari man, 49, contracts new strain of deadly SARS-like virus at home – then hires private jet to Britain for hospital treatment. Now the NHS are paying
Patient held in quarantine in London hospital after infected by 'new' strain
Man 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'
14:30 GMT, 24 September 2012
A Qatari man infected with a potentially-fatal SARS-like virus is being held in quarantine at a London hospital.
The 49-year-old man, who had travelled to Saudi Arabia before falling ill, is in critical condition in an intensive care unit. He has become infected with a new type of virus which experts know little about.
It is only the second time in the world that this particular strain of coronavirus has been identified – the last time was roughly three months ago.
Health experts said the patient had recently travelled to Saudi Arabia (pictured), where another man has died as a result of the virus
Doctors and nurses are wearing full
protective equipment, including goggles, gowns and gloves, when
treating the man who is in strict respiratory isolation.
Anyone who was in close contact with the patient is
being sought after – including healthcare workers who provided direct clinical or personal care, while he was symptomatic.
The patient, who was suffering from acute
respiratory syndrome and renal failure, was admitted to an intensive
care unit in Doha, Qatar, on September 7.
He was transferred to the UK in a private jet on September 11.
The man was at first admitted to a private
hospital but as his condition worsened he was transferred over to an NHS
hospital in London.
The Health Protection Agency said he
was transferred over to the NHS as his 'condition became more acute' and
there was more specialised care available.
As a Qatari national he is expected to foot any bills for his treatment in the UK.
A spokesman said: 'The private
hospital would have been aware of the man's symptoms. When his condition
worsened he was transferred to an NHS hospital that has more
It is not yet clear why the man was allowed to enter Britain in his condition but he was only diagnosed with the virus once he had flown into the UK.
Coronaviruses cause most common colds but can also cause SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). More than 800 people died after a Sars outbreak in Asia in 2002.
The World Health Organisation said it is urgently seeking more information about the new virus.
This is the first time this particular strain has been identified in the UK.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed that the man has contracted a 'new virus' which has only been identified in one other case.
In both cases the infection was acquired in the Middle East.
A HPA spokesperson said there was no evidence the virus has spread to other people but that a small number of other possible cases of the virus are also being investigated.
Deadly: SARS viruses can be seen in and surrounding a cell
A 60-year-old patient from Saudi Arabia died as a result of the virus roughly three months ago. He was also suffering from pneumonia.
Gene sequences of the virus from the
Qatari patient were compared with samples taken by Dutch scientists from
the 60-year-old's lung tissue. They were found to be a 99.5 per cent
However, a HPA spokeswoman said that preliminary inquires have found there was no contact between the two patients.
The incubation period of the virus is currently considered to be up to seven days and
therefore any respiratory illness occuring in the seven days following
last contact with the man could have been infected.
The HPA said currently any person recently returning from Saudi Arabia or Qatar with a serious respiratory illness should be managed in strict
Hundreds of people died in 2003 after a Sars outbreak in Asia (file picture)
Peter Openshaw, director of the
Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London said this
suggested 'that what has been picked up is just some rare event that in
past times might have been undiagnosed.'
Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: 'The HPA is providing advice to healthcare workers to ensure the patient under investigation is being treated appropriately.
'In the light of the severity of the illness that has been identified in the two confirmed cases, immediate steps have been taken to ensure that people who have been in contact with the UK case have not been infected, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have.
'As we are aware of only two cases worldwide and there is no specific evidence of ongoing transmission, at present there is no specific advice for the public or returning travellers to take but we will share any further advice with the public as soon as more information becomes available.'
Dr Openshaw added: 'Any evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission or of contact would be more worrying, raising the worry that another Sars-like agent could be emerging.'
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.