* U.N. health agency gives global guidance on reporting new
* Two cases so far, Saudi and Qatari who went to Saudi
* WHO working with Saudi authorities ahead of haj next month
* Six suspected cases in Denmark prove to be false alarms
(Updates with suspected cases cleared in Denmark, Saudi
measures, ECDC comment)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Sept 26 The World Health Organization on
Wednesday urged health workers everywhere to report patients
with acute respiratory infection who may have been in Saudi
Arabia or Qatar, following the discovery of a new virus from the
same family as SARS.
Saudi Arabia said it had taken precautions to prevent
disease spreading next month, when it expects over 2 million
Muslims to flock to the annual haj pilgrimage, then return
WHO put out a global alert on Sunday saying a new virus had
infected a 49-year-old Qatari who had recently travelled to
Saudi Arabia, where another man with an almost identical virus
The Qatari remained critically ill in hospital in Britain as
of Tuesday, but the WHO said on Wednesday no new case of the new
virus had been reported.
"We've got things in place should things change, should the
behaviour of the virus change," spokesman Gregory Hartl said.
Tests showed that six people with respiratory infections in
two hospitals in Denmark did not have the new coronavirus, and
at least five of them had flu, Danish health officials said.
The new virus shares some of the symptoms of SARS, another
coronavirus, which emerged in China in 2002 and killed around a
tenth of 8,000 people it infected worldwide. So far scientists
do not know how contagious the new virus is, or whether or not
it spreads by contact between people.
WHO's clinical guidance to its 194 member states said health
workers should be alert to anyone with acute respiratory
syndrome and requiring hospitalisation who had been in the area
where the virus was found or in contact with a suspected or
confirmed case within the previous 10 days.
WHO has not recommended any travel restrictions in
connection with the new virus, but said it was working closely
with Saudi authorities on health measures for the haj.
WHO said it was identifying a network of laboratories that
could provide countries with expertise on coronaviruses.
"Though it is a very different virus from SARS, given the
severity of the two confirmed cases so far, WHO is engaged in
further characterising the novel coronavirus," it said.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in
Stockholm said that, based on the available information, "ECDC
assesses the current risk as low".
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; additional reporting by John
Acher in Copenhagen, Alistair Scrutton in Stockholm, Kate
Kelland in London and Asma Alsharif in Jeddah; Editing by Kevin