Zee Media Bureau
New York: Two health workers in Saudi Arabia have been infected with a new respiratory virus related to SARS that has apparently spread from patients, health officials said Wednesday.
One of the workers, who is 45-year-old, fell ill on May 2 and is currently in a critical condition. The other worker, a 43-year-old woman is showing similar symptoms contracted the disease on May 8 but is condition, a news agency reported. No other details about their jobs were released.
Since September 2012, the World Health Organization has been informed of 40 confirmed cases of the virus, and 20 patients infected with the same have died. The deaths occurred in Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.
Experts have suggested calling the new virus MERS, which stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, but officials, have not signed off on that yet.
Experts are watching carefully for signs that may lead to the deadly virus from spreading. Health officials are of the opinion that the virus has already spread infected some people, including hospital patients in France.
The new virus has caused severe respiratory disease in patients, some of them needing mechanical ventilators to help them breathe.
The new virus has been compared to SARS, an unusual pneumonia that first surfaced in China in late 2002 and erupted into a deadly international outbreak in early 2003. Spread of the virus in hospitals was a key development in the epidemic.
Ultimately, more than 8,000 cases were reported in about 30 countries, including eight people in the United States. The global tally included 774 deaths.
The SARS outbreak was declared contained by the summer of 2003, thanks to such measures as quarantines, hospital isolation of suspected cases, travel restrictions and the screening of airline passengers.
The WHO is currently not recommending any travel restrictions or special screening at airports or border crossings. However, officials worry it will flare into an outbreak as big or worse. The new virus and SARS are both coronaviruses, a germ family that includes some cold viruses.
The new virus is distinct from SARS, but health officials worry it has potential to flare into a SARS-like international outbreak. But many questions remain unanswered about how it is spread, where it originated, and how deadly it is.
(With Agency inputs)