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SARS-like Virus Spreading Through Human Contact?

Hemera/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A man in the United Kingdom is the 11th reported patient to be suffering from a new “SARS-like” virus and health officials are trying to determine if the virus is being passed from person-to-person.

The virus was first reported in September when a Qatari man and woman from Saudi Arabia were found to be suffering from a new type of coronoavirus.

Coronaviruses, which include the common cold and SARS, can, at their worst, cause acute pneumonia and kidney failure, the result of inflammation.

Since the virus was first reported, five of the 11 known patients have died, with the majority needing intensive care.

In the newest case, health officials monitoring the situation expect that the virus is being spread person-to-person. However, they emphasize that the risk to the general public remains low.

“If (the) novel coronavirus were more infectious, we would have expected to have seen a larger number of cases,” said John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency, said in a statement.

All except the newest patient traveled to Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Pakistan. Doctors believe the newest patient contracted the illness from a family member and the Health Protection Agency has not suggested any travel bans in response to the outbreak.

The new viral outbreak comes ten years after the SARS virus raced across the globe, infecting an estimated 8,000 individuals and causing nearly 800 deaths.

However, Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University, says that the devastation of SARS led to multiple medical advancements in the tracking and response to emerging diseases.

Hospitals are now able to send specimens of viruses to labs more quickly, and technicians can do molecular testing that was unavailable a decade ago.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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