A British resident has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal SARS-like virus which they are believed to have caught from a family member, in the 11th confirmed case worldwide, officials said Wednesday.
Britain's Health Protection Agency said the person had no recent travel history, but was a relative of a case announced on Monday who had recently travelled to the Middle East and Pakistan and contracted novel coronavirus.
"Confirmed novel coronavirus infection in a person without travel history to the Middle East suggests that person-to-person transmission has occurred, and that it occurred in the UK," said John Watson, head of the agency's respiratory diseases department.
"This case is a family member who was in close personal contact with the earlier case and who may have been at greater risk of acquiring an infection because of their underlying health condition."
The person is in intensive care in hospital in Birmingham, the HPA said.
But the agency added that despite the apparent person-to-person transmission in this case "the risk of infection in most circumstances is still considered to be very low."
"If novel coronavirus were more infectious, we would have expected to have seen a larger number of cases than we have seen since the first case was reported three months ago," it said.
This is the third case to hit Britain after a 49-year-old Qatari man was treated at a London hospital in September for the virus.
The HPA said five patients had died worldwide as a result of the disease.
Five cases have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia resulting in three deaths, while two patients treated in Jordan have died, the agency said. A patient from Qatar was treated for the virus in Germany and given the all-clear.
Coronaviruses cause most common colds but can also cause SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
The SARS epidemic killed more than 800 people when it swept out of China in 2003, sparking a major international health scare.