The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Friday said that it had been informed by the WHO that another case of the tentatively named novel coronavirus (NCoV), which is distantly related to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS), had been confirmed in Saudi Arabia, bringing the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 13.
Of the 13 confirmed cases, seven have been fatal.
The CDC said that three infection clusters had been identified: a family cluster in Saudi Arabia, one in the UK and a healthcare worker cluster in Jordan, raising the possibility that the virus could be transmitted from person to person.
However, the CDC reiterated that there has been no confirmation of human-to-human transmission.
A WHO general statement on the NcoV said that the clusters may have been caused by “exposure to a common source,” but added that an ongoing investigation “may or may not be able to distinguish between these possibilities.”
However, the WHO also made it clear that despite its relation to the SARS virus — both strains belong to the same family of viruses — the novel coronavirus is different from SARS because “based on current information, [NCoV] does not appear to transmit easily between people, unlike the SARS virus.”
The CDC said it would closely monitor the development and spread of the virus, as well as step up its vigilance and inspection measures at Taiwanese points of entry.
The bureau also vowed to follow the WHO’s advice and test patients with unexplained pneumonia for the virus.
It also asked citizens who plan to travel to Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan to be meticulous with their personal hygiene and avoid overly crowded places.
The 13 cases have shown that the novel coronavirus can cause acute respiratory infection, renal failure and lead to death. The NCoV’s incubation period is between seven and 10 days.