LONDON - Two respiratory viruses in different parts of the world have captured the attention of global health officials - a novel coronavirus in the Middle East and a new bird flu spreading in China.
Last week, the corona- virus related to SARS spread to France, where one patient who probably caught the disease in Dubai infected his hospital roommate. Officials are now trying to track down everyone who went on a tour group vacation to Dubai with the first patient as well as all contacts of the second patient. Since it was first spotted last year, the new coronavirus has infected 34 people, killing 18 of them. Nearly all had some connection to the Middle East.
The World Health Organization, however, says there is no reason to think the virus is restricted to the Middle East and has advised health officials worldwide to closely monitor any unusual respiratory cases.
Meanwhile, a new bird flu strain, H7N9, has been infecting people in China since at least March, causing 32 deaths out of 131 known cases.
WHO, which is monitoring the viruses, says both have the potential to cause a pandemic - a global epidemic - if they evolve into a form easily spread between people.