Health Professionals

Clinical Updates

26 November 2012

Novel coronavirus 2012: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar

This updates the previous Clinical Update of 6 November 2012

As of 26 November, a total of six laboratory confirmed cases of novel coronavirus have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) since June 2012.  Four cases (including two deaths) are from Saudi Arabia and two cases are from Qatar [1]. The additional cases have been identified as part of the enhanced surveillance in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

On 22 November, a case was confirmed in a 45 year old male from Qatar who, after initial treatment in hospital in Qatar, had been transferred to Germany for care at a specialist hospital facility.  This individual has recovered [1, 2]. On 23 November, the WHO released information about one case previously reported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the aforementioned case treated in Germany and two new cases reported from KSA [3]. The most recently confirmed cases from KSA occurred in family members residing in the same household; one of the cases died. Two additional family members in this household became ill; one recovered (and tested negative for coronavirus) and one died (results of laboratory tests are awaited) [1, 3].

Coronaviruses are causes of the common cold but can also cause more serious illness including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The novel coronavirus 2012 is different to any coronavirus previously identified. There is currently no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of this virus. Investigations are on-going to look into the likely source of infection and the route of exposure for those cases detailed above. Close contacts of these cases are being identified and followed-up [1].


Advice for travellers

The risk to of novel coronavirus 2012 infection to UK residents travelling to the Middle East remains very low.

There is no change to travel advice; there are no travel restrictions and no specific advice for travellers to the Middle East. 

Travellers returning from the Middle East with mild respiratory symptoms are most likely to have a common respiratory illness such as a cold.  

However, if symptoms worsen considerably, medical advice should be sought from the GP or NHS Direct. Returning travellers should mention which countries of the Middle East they have visited.

Further information is available on the HPA website.

Advice for health professionals

Health Professionals should, as always, take a detailed travel history when evaluating an ill returned traveller.

The Health Protection Agency has developed advice for health professionals in relation to novel coronavirus 2012, including a case definition for investigation and management of patients, and infection control advice. Where patients meet the possible case definition, clinicians should inform their local Health Protection Unit, which will be able to assist in the risk assessment and advise on what samples should be taken.

Standard transmission based precautions for respiratory tract infections should be instituted if a possible case is suspected.

Clinical queries about the management of potential cases of severe respiratory infections in people who have recently visited Saudi Arabia or Qatar should be directed in the first instance to the local infectious disease physician or microbiologists.  The national Imported Fever Service is available to local infectious disease physicians or microbiologists should specialist advice be needed - tel – 0844 7788990.


1. European Centres for Disease Prevention and Control. Update – Rapid Risk Assessment. Severe respiratory disease associated with a novel coronovirus. 26 November, 2012 [Accessed 26 November, 2012]. Available at:

2. Robert Koch Institut. Case of novel Corona virus in Germany 23 November 2012. Press release (translation). [Accessed 26 November, 2012]. Available at:

3. World Health Organization. Novel Coronavirus Infection Update. [Accessed 26 November, 2012] Available at:



Health Protection Agency – Novel corona virus (September 2012)