On 21 September 2012 a novel corona virus was identified in lower respiratory tract specimens of a Qatari national who was receiving treatment for a severe respiratory illness in London.
The virus is the same as a novel corona virus recently identifed by Dutch researchers in lung tissue from a national from Saudi Arabia who was ill previously with pneumonia. These are currently the only two known cases where this virus has been isolated.
There are a variety of corona viruses and these include viruses causing common cold symptoms and other types causing the much more serious illness of SARS.
In light of the seriousness of the illness in these two patients and the unknown nature of the novel coronavirus, the current patient is being managed in strict respiratory isolation and any staff caring for them must wear full personal protective equipment - FFP3 respirator (staff should be fit tested), goggles, gown and gloves.
Anyone who was in close contact with the patient while the patient was ill is being followed up - this includes healthcare workers who provided direct clinical or personal care or examination of the case while they were symptomatic.
The incubation period is currently considered to be up to seven days and therefore any respiratory illness occuring in the seven days following last contact with this case is considered relevant and staff should alert their manager / occupational health service as soon as possible. Symptoms would include fever, cough, or other respiratory symptoms.
At the current time any person recently returning from Saudi Arabia or Qatar with a serious respiratory illness should be managed in strict respiratory isolation (ideally a negative pressure room) and all staff should wear PPE as described above.