Health Professionals

Clinical Updates

1 February 2013

Novel coronavirus 2012: update on risk assessment

This updates the previous Clinical Update of 3 December 2012

The Health Protection Agency has revised the risk assessment on the novel coronavirus following the retrospective diagnosis of two fatal novel coronavirus cases (part of an 11-case hospital pneumonia cluster that occurred in Jordan in April 2012).

ECDC released a further Rapid Risk Assessment on 7th December 2012 to reflect the increase in internationally reported cases and changes to suspected case surveillance algorithms. 

Advice for travellers

There has been no change to the existing travel advice for travel to Saudi Arabia or Qatar or other countries in the Middle East due to novel coronavirus.

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

The risk to the residents of the Middle East remains very low.

The level of risk in those who come to the UK from, or return from, the Middle East and meet the case definition for a “case under investigation” is very low but warrants testing for novel coronavirus infection.

The probability that a cluster of cases of severe acute respiratory infection of unexplained aetiology requiring intensive care admission is due to novel coronavirus remains very low, but warrants testing.

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, Qatar or Jordan, or the neighbouring countries of Bahrain, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, UAE and Yemen, 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. Health Protection Agency. HPA Risk Assessment. Novel Coronavirus 2012. 31 January 2013.  [Accessed 1 February 2013] Available at:



Health Protection Agency – Novel corona virus

ECDC - Rapid Risk Assessment