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Sars-like virus patient dies in hospital

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One of three family members struck down by a Sars-like virus has died in hospital, health protection officials have said.

The unnamed man, part of a “cluster” of three novel coronavirus cases linked to the same family, died at the weekend in the critical care unit of Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The HPA said a relative of the deceased, a man who is known to have made recent visits to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, was still receiving treatment at Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital.

Meanwhile, a third family member who contracted the new virus has recovered after treatment.

News that a patient had died from the virus was initially confirmed by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, that said it had been treating him as an out-patient for a long-term, complex and unrelated health condition.

A statement issued by the trust which runs the hospital added: “The patient was immuno-compromised and is believed to have contracted the virus from a relative who is being treated for the condition in a Manchester hospital.”

The HPA said the man who died and another of the UK cases had no recent history of foreign travel, suggesting that transmission had occurred in Britain.

A spokesman for the HPA said: “One person has sadly died.

“This patient had an underlying condition that may have made them more susceptible to respiratory infections.

“The first patient in this cluster, who had recent travel history to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, is still receiving treatment.

“The third case, who had a mild illness, has recovered.”

Since September 2012, when an earlier case of novel coronavirus was diagnosed in the UK, there have been a total of 12 confirmed cases globally, with six deaths.

More than 100 people have been identified as having had close contact with the three family members affected by the UK outbreak, but all tests carried out to date have proved negative for the new virus.

Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: “The routes of transmission to humans of the novel coronavirus have not yet been fully determined, but the recent UK experience provides strong evidence of human-to-human transmission in at least some circumstances.

“The three recent cases in the UK represent an important opportunity to obtain more information about the characteristics of this infection in humans, and risk factors for its acquisition, particularly in the light of the first ever recorded instance of apparently lower severity of illness in one of the cases.

“The risk of infection in contacts in most circumstances is still considered to be low and the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains very low.

“The HPA will continue to work closely with national and international health authorities and will share any further advice with health professionals and the public if and when more information becomes available.”

Of the worldwide cases confirmed by laboratory tests, five have occurred in Saudi Arabia, two in Jordan, four in the UK, and one in Germany.

Coronaviruses are causes of the common cold but can also include more severe illness, such as Sars.

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