Since the discovery of a novel coronavirus (nCoV) by Dutch researchers in September 2012 in lung tissue from a national from Saudi Arabia who had died from pneumonia, just under 20 cases of nCoV have been identified worldwide. The three recent UK cases were part of a family cluster in the UK where the index patient had recently travelled to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – two members of this cluster have died. Of the confirmed cases to date, most required intensive care support and the mortality rate has been just under 65%.
There are a variety of coronaviruses and these can cause illnesses ranging from a common cold to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. In light of the seriousness of the illness caused by this novel coronavirus, it is recommended that probable or confirmed cases should be managed in strict respiratory isolation and that all staff caring for these cases must wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) - FFP3 respirator (staff should be fit tested), goggles, gown and gloves. Anyone who was in close contact with a confirmed case of nCoV while the patient was ill should be followed up - this includes healthcare workers who provided direct clinical or personal care or examination of a case and were not wearing PPE while the patient was symptomatic.
The incubation period is currently considered to be up to ten days and therefore any respiratory illness occurring in the ten days following last contact with a confirmed case of nCoV is considered relevant and close contacts should self- isolate and alert their GP as soon as possible – where the close contacts are healthcare workers this should be there manager/ occupational health service. Symptoms would include fever, cough, or any other respiratory symptoms.
Updates on the current situation can be found on the “What’s new” page. Further information on case investigations and management; including case definitions is available on the Investigation and Management page of the HPA website. The latest changes to the management and investigation algorithms can also be found there. Information on infection control is available on the Guidance and Advice page.
Clinicians who think they may have a patient meeting the above criteria should discuss the case with their local microbiologist or infectious disease physician in the first instance.
Healthcare workers with health concerns or queries should contact their occupational health department.
Last reviewed: 28 March 2013