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updated: 2/15/2013 3:32 PM

New virus cases at 12

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Bloomberg News

British health authorities identified an additional case of a new respiratory virus in a relative of a person diagnosed this week, bringing the global tally of cases to 12.

The patient, who doesn't have any recent travel history, is recovering from a mild respiratory illness, the Health Protection Authority said in a statement today, without specifying the patient's gender or age. Officials on Feb. 11 said a British resident who traveled to the Middle East and Pakistan was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, and on Feb. 13 they said a family member had been infected.

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Friday's announcement that another family member has contracted the virus brings the number of cases in the U.K. to four. Of the 12 cases globally, five people have died. While person-to-person transmission may have occurred in some other cases in the Middle East, the risk of infection is considered low, the agency said.

"We would like to emphasize that the risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general U.K. population remains very low," John Watson, the HPA's head of respiratory diseases, said in the statement. "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."

Coronaviruses are a family of pathogens that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which sickened more than 8,000 people and killed 774 in 2002 and 2003, according to the WHO. While the new virus is related to the one that causes SARS, it appears far less transmissible, according to the World Health Organization.

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