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A patient is currently being treated in a London hospital after being diagnosed with a deadly virus.

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The patient, who recently returned to the UK from the Middle East, is in intensive care after contracting a new type of coronavirus.

The condition was also identified in a patient with acute respiratory illness in Saudi Arabia, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said. This patient subsequently died.

Coronaviruses are causes of the common cold but can also include more severe illness, such as the virus responsible for SARS.

An HPA spokesman said: “This new virus, however, is different from any that have previously been identified in humans. Preliminary enquiries have revealed no evidence of illness in contacts of these two cases, including healthcare workers.

“Based on what we know about other coronaviruses, many of these contacts will already have passed the period when they could have caught the virus from the infected person.

Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: “The HPA is providing advice to healthcare workers to ensure the patient under investigation is being treated appropriately.

“In the light of the severity of the illness that has been identified in the two confirmed cases, immediate steps have been taken to ensure that people who have been in contact with the UK case have not been infected, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have.

“At present there is no specific advice for the public or returning travellers to take but we will share any further advice with the public as soon as more information becomes available.”

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