WHO Update on Novel Coronavirus Infection


As of 28 November 2012, seven confirmed and one probable case of novel coronavirus infection in humans are known to have occurred. These cases range in time from June through November 2012 and occurred in the areas around Jeddah and Riyadh of Saudi Arabia (which are about 850 km apart), and in Doha, Qatar. Infection with the virus appears to have been acquired locally in each of these situations. All of the patients were male but the significance of this is unknown.

The clinical picture in all cases was an acute respiratory infection presenting with signs and symptoms of pneumonia. Of the seven confirmed cases, five developed acute renal failure and three of these died. The remaining two confirmed cases had pneumonia that required intensive support, without renal failure, and recovered. Three of the seven confirmed cases and the one probable case all belong to the same family and were living in the same household.

The source of the virus is unknown, as is the mode of transmission. Available genetic sequence data indicate that the virus is most closely related to a coronavirus found in bats; however, this does not conclusively support bats as a reservoir for the virus. Early investigations do not support direct exposure to bats as a mode of transmission.

The newly reported cases demonstrate that the virus has persisted over a period of at least 5 months and is geographically distributed over a wider area than was evidenced by the first two cases.

Given that the exact extent of the distribution is unknown, WHO is taking the precaution of recommending an expansion of surveillance to monitor for the appearance of the virus in other countries. In this regards WHO issued "Interim Surveillance recommendations for human infection with novel corona virus" on 28th November.  

See also http://www.who.int/csr/disease/coronavirus_infections/en/index.html for further details on laboratory and infection prevention and control guidance.