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Watchdog is on alert for deadly new virus

Guidelines have been issued to health professionals on how to deal with a deadly new virus.

The novel coronavirus has killed 18 people since being identified last year. It is known to cause pneumonia and sometimes kidney failure.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said that, while there are no reports of anyone in Ireland being infected, it is monitoring the situation.

However the HPSC added that, at the moment, the risk of getting infected in Ireland is "estimated to be low".



There have been 34 confirmed cases of the virus across Europe and the Middle East.

The HPSC said people can still travel to the Middle East: the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not issued any travel alerts for the area.

The WHO is encouraging all member states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections, and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

It said that testing for the novel coronavirus should be considered in patients with unexplained pneumonia, or in patients with unexplained severe, progressive illness or complicated respiratory illness not responding to treatment, particularly people travelling from or resident in areas of the world known to be affected.

People who became infected with the novel coronavirus developed acute serious respiratory illness with shortness of breath, fever, cough, difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

The infection has generally presented as pneumonia. It has caused kidney failure and death in some cases.

There are no specific treatments for the virus and no vaccine is available.

The HPSC said that it is not the same virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

Cases have been confirmed in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, Germany and the UK.

Coronaviruses are typically spread like other respiratory infections such as flu. The new virus may be spread from person to person through close contact. However, this virus does not appear to spread very easily, experts say.

The spread appears to be limited, but this is based on a small number of confirmed cases.