WHO Offers Countries Help on Reporting SARS-Like Virus

The organization urges health officials to report suspected cases of the new coronavirus.

Muslim pilgrims fulfilling the Hajj circle the Kaaba at the Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca in 2011. Health officials worry about a small outbreak of a SARS-like coronavirus in the Middle East. (Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

Sep 26, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

The World Health Organization has issued a second global alert about a new coronavirus strain that has killed one person and infected another, encouraging healthcare providers to be on the alert for cases of severe respiratory infection among those who have been in the Middle East.

The organization is being proactive about a potential outbreak of a SARS-like virus. In this new update to its previous global alert, the group outlined how it’s increasing its protection efforts.

The alert says WHO is coordinating with and giving guidance to health authorities and agencies in member countries, as well as targeting labs that have knowledge on coronaviruses.

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A few days ago WHO issued its first global alert after it was found that a 49-year-old Qatari man was being treated in London for a new form of the coronavirus. Earlier this year another man from Saudi Arabia died of a similar virus, and health officials began speculating about the disease possibly circulating in the Middle East.

Although this new coronavirus is not SARS, it has some of the same symptoms as the severe acute respiratory syndrome virus that killed 774 and sickened about 8,000 in 2003. Coronaviruses, some of which cause the common cold, affect the upper respiratory tract and sometimes the lower tract, as well as the gut.

Six people in Denmark were recently suspected of having the virus, but Reuters reports they’ve all been cleared after being tested—at least five had the flu, according to Danish health officials.

“International efforts are being stepped up across all WHO six regions to ensure an appropriate and effective response with a WHO specialist team in daily contact with more than a dozen international and regional technical partners,” a news release said.

It added that the organization is also working closely with Saudi Arabia in its efforts to ensure the health of people visiting the country for Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, at the end of October.

Do you think a SARS-like epidemic is a reality, or will global efforts halt the spread of the virus? Let us know in the comments.

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