New coronavirus can spread among humans

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that a new coronavirus strain could be passed from human to human. The virus, called nCoV-EMC, looks like an offshoot of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed 775 people and infected 8,273 between 2002-03. However, the WHO was quick to point out that the new strain isn't as virulent as SARS. The warning came after the 34th case worldwide came to light on Sunday. A man is in a "very serious but stable" condition in an intensive care unit in France. It is believed he contracted the virus while vacationing in Dubai in April. The new coronavirus has already claimed the lives of 18 people, 15 of the fatalities being in Saudi Arabia.

Coronavirus causes respiratory illnesses in both humans and animals. Unlike SARS, which spread from birds and animals to humans, the new strain could have mutated to spread between people. A WHO spokesman, Keiji Fukuda, told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Sunday that the new virus posed an "important and major challenge" for those countries already affected and for the whole world. He stressed that while the new virus was not SARS, it was very worrying. He said: "Of most concern is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact, this coronavirus can transmit from person to person".