Fifth coronavirus death reported

Coronavirus The source of the virus is uncertain

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A fifth person has died from a new respiratory illness similar to the Sars virus, according to the World Health Organization.

The WHO said the two latest deaths were in Jordan. The disease had previously been detected only in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, although one patient was transferred to the UK for treatment.

It brings the total number of cases of the infection to nine.

There may also be evidence of human to human spread of the virus.

It causes pneumonia and sometimes kidney failure.

There was a series of severe cases of pneumonia in Jordan earlier in the year. However, the novel coronavirus had not been discovered at the time so did not appear in routine tests.

Two of the deaths in April have now been confirmed as being part of the outbreak.

Sars-like

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses ranging from the common cold to the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus. They infect a wide range of animals.

In 2002 an outbreak of Sars killed about 800 people after the virus spread to more than 30 countries around the world.

The WHO is still trying to work out where the infection came from. Studies show that the virus is closely related to one found in some species of bats.

How readily the virus spreads will be important for assessing how great a threat it poses.

The WHO said that, unlike Sars, the new coronavirus, "does not appear to transmit easily between people".

However, it warns that two clusters in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, "raise the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission" or they could have been exposed to the same source of the infection.

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