A newly identified virus tied to five deaths worldwide since April appears capable of transmission from one person to another, British health officials said Wednesday.
The virus, part of a family called coronaviruses that range from the common cold to SARS, was found in a British resident who was apparently infected by a relative. It can cause fever, coughing and breathing problems.
Until now, health officials had little evidence of whether the virus could be transmitted from person to person. Reports of the virus first emerged in the Middle East or among patients who had traveled there.
The case in Britain, which involves someone who has not recently traveled to the Middle East, “suggests that person-to-person transmission has occurred, and that it occurred in the U.K.,” Professor John Watson of the British Health Protection Agency said in a statement.
Watson added, however, that the risk of infection still appeared low. If the new virus were more contagious, “we would have expected to have seen a larger number of cases,” he said.