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Investigation of a cluster of cases of a novel cornavirus has confirmed that the emerging infection can be transmitted between humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Sixteen of the 27 confirmed cases have died, a fatality rate of 59%.
In addition, another cluster of cases was "temporally associated" with reported illness in health care workers, suggesting nosocomial transmission could occur between patients and providers. No cases have occurred in the U.S. but the CDC is recommending SARS-like infection control measures for suspected cases.
In February 2013, a cluster of three family members was identified in the United Kingdom. All three people tested positive for novel coronavirus. Among them, two died, and one recovered after experiencing a mild respiratory illness.
"This cluster provides evidence of person-to-person transmission of novel coronavirus," the CDC states in a web update. "It also provides the first example of mild illness being associated with novel coronavirus infection. The efficiency of person-to-person transmission of novel coronavirus is not well characterized but appears to be low, given the small number of confirmed cases since the discovery of the virus."
As of May 3, 2013, 27 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported to the World Health Organization - 19 from Saudi Arabia, two from Qatar, two from Jordan, three from the United Kingdom, and one from the United Arab Emirates. The onset of illness was between April 2012 and April 2013. . Two of the 27 cases experienced a mild respiratory illness and fully recovered.
Two other clusters of cases in Saudi Arabia and Jordan are still being investigated. The first cluster of two cases, both fatal, occurred near Amman, Jordan, in April 2012. Stored samples from these two cases tested positive retrospectively for the novel coronavirus. This cluster was temporally associated with cases of illness among workers in a hospital. A second cluster occurred in October 2012, in Saudi Arabia. Of the four individuals in the household, three were laboratory-confirmed cases, two of them died.
The reservoir and of the novel coronavirus are still being investigated. Genetic sequencing to date has determined the virus is most closely related to coronaviruses detected in bats. CDC is continuing to collaborate with WHO and affected countries to better characterize the epidemiology of novel coronavirus infection in humans. No cases have been reported in the U.S.