The Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) is emerging as a major challenge for countries across the world and experts from the various governments that have been affected are desperately looking for some form of guidance. A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that the virus may be able to spread by human-to-human contact.

NCoV is also known as MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus).

In fact, WHO has just been invited by the The Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to try and help them fully assess nCoV and come up with recommendations and ways to try and tackle it.

Novel Coronavirus infection is a relatively new disease in humans; there are still many questions that remain unanswered, says WHO. It is going to take some time before we fully understand nCoV.

Update: June 17th, 2013Saudi Arabia announced four more human fatalities from MERS-CoV infection, bringing the death toll in the country to 32. Thirty-seven people have died from MERS-CoV infection globally.

Coronaviruses affect the upper respiratory tract of birds and mammals, although they may also affect the gastrointestinal tract. They are quite common and are responsible for about one third of all common colds.

The Novel Coronavirus is a new coronavirus strain that began infecting people in the Middle East last year.

It was first identified around the beginning of 2012 when a man in Saudi Arabia became sick with symptoms that appeared to be very similar to SARS – he died in June 2012.

Three months later, a patient from Qatar became ill after a trip to Saudi Arabia. He was transported to the UK for further treatment. Lab tests were conducted which confirmed that the patients were both infected with nCoV.

Since then, nCoV infection has killed 18 people in the Middle East.

Another well known virus that was similarly caused by a Coronavirus was the famous SARS CoV infection which first emerged in the Guangdong Province in southern China in November 2002.

Even though SARS and nCoV belong to the same family, the effects they have on human cells differ substantially. nCoV disrupts more human genes more aggressively and frequently than the SARS coronavirus did.

NCoV is also proving to have a higher fatality rate than SARS, its 50% death rate is a lot higher than the 9.5% rate during the 2002/2003 SARS pandemic that was responsible for the deaths of 774 out of 8,098 confirmed cases of human infection in 37 countries.

WHO reports that “we know nCoV has infected people since 2012, but we don’t know where this virus lives. We know that when people get infected, many of them develop severe pneumonia. What we don’t know is how often people might develop mild disease.”

Older men with existing medical conditions appear to be particularly vulnerable to nCoV infection. WHO warned that this trend may change over time.

One of the main concerns WHO, other health organizations and government bodies have about the virus is how it is being transmitted. A WHO official recently stated that the nCoV is likely able to spread from human-tohuman.

WHO wrote in an online communique:

“Of most concern, however, is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact this novel coronavirus can transmit from person-to-person.

This pattern of person-to- person transmission has remained limited to some small clusters and so far, there is no evidence that this virus has the capacity to sustain generalized transmission in communities.”

WHO praises the Saudi Arabian government for its diligent surveillance system and control measures; this could be why so many cases have been identified in the country.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist