BETHESDA, Md. (WUSA9)-- "When you look at it under a sharp microscope, it looks like it has these very sharp spokes around it, like the spikes of a crown. So it IS called a coronavirus."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases is talking about a newly identified virus in the coronavirus family, which also encompasses the deadly SARS virus and some strains that cause the common cold. So far, 13 cases of the new virus have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UK.
Dr. Fauci says this brand new coronavirus seems to have come from bats, and the first human case emerged in the Middle East last summer.
Dr. Fauci says, "They developed a severe pneumonia and died. Nobody made anything of it because they didn't know what it was."
But subsequent testing of lung tissues revealed a brand new virus in the same family as SARS, the frightening respiratory infection that killed hundreds back in 2003, especially in Asia. But Dr. Fauci says this new coronavirus is very different from SARS, in that it doesn't seem to spread easily from person to person. During the SARS pandemic of 2002-2003, there were 8,273 cases and 775 deaths worldwide.
Dr. Fauci says one cluster of cases involving the new coronavirus were family members of a person from the UK who traveled to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and apparently brought the virus back.
So while he does not consider the new infection a threat in the U-S right now, Dr. Fauci says doctors in international cities like Washington, D.C. need to be on the lookout.
"Particularly people who are travelling from those countries in the Middle East and come up with a respiratory infection that leads to pneumonia, you want to look for that particular virus. Because now we've identified that virus; we know what it is," says Dr. Fauci.