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Saudi Arabia confirms four new coronavirus cases

Saudi Arabia has confirmed four new cases of the SARS-like novel coronavirus in its Eastern Province, state media reported, citing the health ministry.

The health ministry said one of the four new cases had been treated and the patient had been released from hospital, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia said it had had a total of 24 confirmed cases since the disease was identified last year, of whom 15 had died. In its latest outbreak in its Eastern Province, it said it had had 15 confirmed cases, of whom nine had died.

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Second case of deadly virus confirmed in France

A second diagnosis of the new SARS-like coronavirus has been confirmed in France, the Health Ministry said, in what appeared to be a case of human-to-human transmission.

The new infection was found in a 50-year-old man who had shared a hospital room with France's only other known sufferer, the ministry added.

"Of most concern," said a World Health Organisation statement, "is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact this novel coronavirus can transmit from person-to-person."

At least 18 people are known to have died from the disease in the Middle East and Europe.

Sars-like novel coronavirus infection 'occurred in Britain'

The man who died of the Sars-like novel coronavirus infection had no recent history of foreign travel, suggesting that transmission had occurred in Britain, the Health Protection Agency (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.

– HPA spokesman

Read: More on the patient who died at a Birmingham hospital after contracting the Sars-like coronavirus.

Investigation into Sars-like novel coronavirus infection

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is continuing its investigation into the Sars-like novel coronavirus infection after three members of the same family tested positive for the condition in the UK.

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)

Patient in Manchester 'travelled to Middle East'

Health protection workers have established that the patient being treated for novel coronavirus at a Manchester hospital had recently travelled to the Middle East and Pakistan, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said.

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.

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Birmingham hospital used 'stringent infection controls'

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham said last week the novel coronavirus patient's admission had been subject to "stringent infection controls".

The patient, who died Sunday morning in the hospital's critical care unit, is believed to have contracted the virus from a relative who is being treated for the condition at a Manchester hospital.

For more on this story click here.

What is the Sars-like coronavirus?

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.

There is no vaccine currently available.

Patient dies from Sars-like coronavirus in Birmingham

A patient has died at a Birmingham hospital after contracting the Sars-like coronavirus, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said today.

The patient, who has yet to be named, died on Sunday morning in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham's (QEHB) critical care unit.

A general view of main entrance of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.
The patient was already an outpatient at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham when they contracted the coronavirus. Credit: Ryan Phillips/EMPICS Entertainment

The person is believed to have contracted the novel coronavirus from a relative who is being treated for the condition in a Manchester hospital.

The deceased had a problem with their auto-immune system and had been an outpatient at QEHB undergoing treatment for a "long-term, complex unrelated health condition".

"QEHB is working closely with the Health Protection Agency, which is currently following up other household members and contacts of this case", the NHS Trust added.

What is the Sars-like coronavirus?

Coronaviruses is one of a family of RNA-containing viruses known to cause severe respiratory illnesses.The HPA 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 virus, however, is different from any that have previously been identified in humans.

In 2003, hundreds of people died after a Sars outbreak in Asia.

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