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New SARS Family Virus Detected in Qatari Man, WHO Says

A new virus related to those that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome was identified in a 49-year-old Qatari man, prompting further research into the potentially fatal pathogen.

The so-called coronavirus was detected after the man was diagnosed with acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure, the World Health Organization said in a statement yesterday. He had traveled to Saudi Arabia and Qatar before being transferred to the U.K. by air ambulance on Sept. 11, the WHO said.

The man is receiving intensive care at a London hospital, the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency said in an e-mailed statement today. There’s no evidence of illness among people with whom he had contact, and many of them are probably past the incubation period, the HPA said. The agency, which conducted lab testing on the Qatari case, found a 99.5 percent match to a virus that killed a man in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

“As we are aware of only two cases worldwide and there is no evidence of ongoing transmission, at present there is no specific action for the public or returning travellers to take,” John Watson, head of the HPA’s respiratory diseases department, said in the statement.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, sickened 8,098 people worldwide from November 2002 to July 2003, according to the Geneva-based WHO.

“WHO is currently in the process of obtaining further information to determine the public health implications of these two confirmed cases,” the organization said in the statement. “With respect to these findings, WHO does not recommend any travel restrictions.”

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