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.
Since September last year, when an earlier case of the condition was diagnosed in the UK, 12 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus have been reported globally - killing six people.
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.
– Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the Health Protection Agency (HPA)
Professor John Watson of the HPA said last week, "Our assessment is that the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains extremely low and the risk to travellers to the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding countries remains very low".
"People who develop severe respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, within ten days of returning from these countries should seek medical advice and mention which countries they have visited", he added.
Coronaviruses are part of a family of RNA-containing viruses known to cause severe respiratory illnesses.
The Health Protection Agency said coronaviruses are causes of the common cold but can also include more severe illness, such as the virus responsible for Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
This new strain of coronavirus, known as novel coronavirus, was first identified in September 2012 in a patient who died from a severe respiratory infection in June 2012.
The virus has so far only been identified in a small number of cases of acute, serious respiratory illness who presented with fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties.
The World Health Organisation stressed it is not known how people become infected with this virus. However, it suggests avoiding close contact with anyone who shows symptoms of illness - coughing and sneezing - and maintaining good hand hygiene.