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HPA - Update on acute respiratory illness associated with a new coronavirus

In two reports published in Eurosurveillance on 4 October 2012, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirms that since the first case of severe respiratory illness associated with a new type of coronavirus was reported on 22 September 2012, there have been no new cases reported in the UK. The patient being treated in the UK with confirmed coronavirus infection continues to receive intensive care treatment in a London hospital.

Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: “Around 50 to 60 healthcare workers, family and friends who were in close contact with the patient have been identified and, to date, none have had severe illness and none have confirmed evidence of infection. Although this is reassuring, further work is being undertaken, including the testing of blood samples from these contacts, to determine whether mild or asymptomatic infection occurred.”

An extensive suite of materials for healthcare workers relating to the investigation and management of confirmed or possible cases was prepared by the HPA along with infection control and other general advice for staff who may be involved in receiving and caring for patients.

An alert was also issued by the Department of Health to all NHS staff with advice to help maintain increased vigilance for illness caused by this virus and the HPA is continuing to work with international authorities including the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Control to investigate this infection.

Professor Watson, continued: "As we are still aware of only two cases worldwide and have no evidence of ongoing transmission, we are not offering any specific advice for the public or returning travellers.

“Travellers returning from the Middle East with mild respiratory symptoms are most likely to have a common respiratory illness such as a cold. However, if symptoms worsen or a patient develops shortness of breath, medical advice should be sought from the GP or NHS Direct. Returning travellers should mention which countries in the Middle East they have visited.

“The HPA will continue its respiratory surveillance and will remain alert to unusual respiratory infections. We will continue to work closely with health colleagues globally to ensure all information about severe acute respiratory infections is shared and followed up.”

Notes for editors:

  1. Laboratory confirmed cases to date: UK: 1  Saudi Arabia:1
  2. The full epidemiological report  is available from the Eurosurveillance website.
  3. The full microbiology report is available from the Eurosurveillance website.
  4. For further information, see the HPA’s Q&A on this topic.
  5. A suite of information has also been produced for health professionals is available from the HPA website.
  6. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. In April 2013 the Health Protection Agency will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website: www.hpa.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @HPAuk.
  7. For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email colindale-pressoffice@hpa.org.uk . Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.