GENEVA — The World Health Organization Wednesday urged health workers everywhere to report patients with acute respiratory infection who may have been in Saudi Arabia or Qatar, following the discovery of a new virus from the same family as SARS.

Saudi Arabia said it had taken precautions to prevent disease spreading next month, when it expects close to three million Muslims to flock to the annual Haj pilgrimage, then return home.

WHO put out a global alert Sunday saying a new virus had infected a 49-year-old Qatari who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, where another man with an almost identical virus had died.

The Qatari remained critically ill in hospital in Britain as of Tuesday, but the WHO said Wednesday no new case of the new virus had been reported. “We’ve got things in place should things change, should the behavior of the virus change,” spokesman Gregory Hartl said.

WHO has not recommended any travel restrictions in connection with the new virus, but said it was working closely with Saudi authorities on health measures for the Haj.

WHO said it was identifying a network of laboratories that could provide countries with expertise on coronaviruses.

“Though it is a very different virus from SARS, given the severity of the two confirmed cases so far, WHO is engaged in further characterizing the novel coronavirus,” it said. — Reuters


Source: Saudi Gazette