World Health Organization expert plays down fears of pandemic, saying prolonged contact is needed to transmit disease.
A World Health Organization (WHO) official has said it seems likely that a new coronavirus that has killed at least 18 people in the Middle East and Europe can be passed between humans, but only after prolonged contact.
A virus from the same family triggered the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) that swept the world after emerging in Asia and killed 775 people in 2003.
French authorities announced on Sunday that a second man had been diagnosed with the disease after sharing a hospital room with France's only other sufferer.
The WHO's assistant director general, Keiji Fukuda, told reporters in Saudi Arabia, the site of the largest cluster of infections, that there was no evidence so far the virus was able to sustain "generalized transmission in communities" – a scenario that would raise the specter of a pandemic.
But he said the main concern was that the clusters seen in several countries "increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact, this novel coronavirus can transmit from person to person".
Countries need to increase levels of awareness, he said.
A public health expert who declined to be identified said close contact meant being in a small, enclosed space with an infected person for a prolonged period.
The virus emerged in the Gulf last year but cases have also been recorded in Britain and France among people who had recently been in the Middle East. A total of 34 cases worldwide have been confirmed by blood tests so far.
The new coronavirus, which has killed at least 18 people in the Middle East and Europe, seen under an electron microscope.
Source: The Guardian