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PostSubject: Scientists race to understand deadly new virus   Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:43 pm

WASHINGTON — A deadly new virus has scientists scrambling to learn more about it and figure out whether the virus will become a pandemic or remain a limited threat.

The virus has sickened 13 people and killed seven of them in the Middle East and England since last April. All but one of those infected were hospitalized with severe pneumonia and several also developed kidney failure.

“We have a new and virulent virus,” Gwen Stephens, of the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health in Riyadh, told members of the American Society of Microbiology on February 27 during the annual Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting. “We can only guess at its risks.”

Not yet named, the mysterious culprit is a coronavirus, a class that includes the virus that causes SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS spread like wildfire in 2002 and 2003, infecting some 8,100 people and killing nearly 800.

The new virus is most closely related to coronaviruses that bats carry, but it probably didn’t jump directly from bats to people, Vincent Munster, of the National Institutes of Health’s Virus Ecology Unit in Hamilton, Mont., said at the meeting. None of the people who got the disease had direct contact with bats, he said, and the virus is not exactly the same as any known to infect bats.

Much like SARS did, the new virus causes severe pneumonia. But that, Stephens said, is where the similarity between viruses ends.

While SARS passed easily from person to person through the air, the new virus doesn’t seem to transmit that way. Family members and health care workers who have cared for people sick with the novel coronavirus have, with the exception of one family, not fallen ill, Stephens said. That suggests that people must come into direct contact with the virus, such as by touching something an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.

- See more at: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/348643/description/Scientists_race_to_understand_deadly_new_virus#sthash.yj62GWWX.dpuf

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