WHO issues criteria for identifying new respiratory virus
Published Tuesday, September 25, 2012 8:22PM MDT
The World Health Organization has issued guidelines for identifying possible cases of a new SARS-related respiratory virus found in two people from the Middle East.
In a news release issued Tuesday, WHO said it has received no reports of additional cases of the “novel” coronavirus, which belongs to the same family as SARS and the common cold.
The health organization outlined an "interim case definition," which includes criteria to help doctors around the world identify probable or confirmed cases of the virus, based on clinical and laboratory findings.
A patient with an acute respiratory syndrome, which may include a fever of 38 C or higher and a cough, and who requires hospitalization should be investigated further, WHO said.
Those who have been in close contact with a probable or confirmed coronavirus patient within 10 days of falling ill or travelled to an area where the virus has been found fit the WHO’s epidemiological criteria.
WHO defines “close contact” as staying in the same place as someone who is sick with the virus, or sitting next to that person in a classroom, airplane or a taxi. Providing care to a coronavirus patient, whether in a health care setting or in the community, is also a risk factor, WHO said.
Health officials became aware of the new virus earlier this month when a 49-year-old Qatari man who had travelled to Saudi Arabia for hajj -- the Muslim pilgrimage -- became sick upon returning home.
He was placed in intensive care in Doha, Qatar on Sept.7 and then transferred to the U.K. by air ambulance on Sept. 11. There, the British Health Protection Agency confirmed the man was infected with a coronavirus.
The virus was matched to the case of a 60-year-old Saudi national who died earlier this year.
The WHO says the new virus is “very different” from SARS, but the severity of the two cases identified so far has put officials on alert.
“As such, 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,” the organization said in a news release.
The WHO also said it will be working closely with Saudi Arabia as visitors descend on the country next month for the hajj.