The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a global alert after six cases of a virus resembling the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) were discovered in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Two of the six cases confirmed by laboratories have been fatal, leading to fears of an outbreak similar to the original SARS virus in 2002-03, which killed around 10 percent of the 8,000 humans infected.
“From our understanding of the virus so far, and given the enhanced surveillance that is in place, we expect to see more cases reported and confirmed,” WHO spokesman, Glen Thomas, told IRIN. “We also expect to see more cases from countries other than the two that have confirmed cases so far.” WHO scientists are trying to find out the cause of the infections, and ascertain whether the virus is moving from human to human.
A study published by scientists from the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam last week found similarities between the new SARS-like virus and a virus found in bats in Saudi Arabia.