ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Local health officials are keeping a close eye on a deadly coronavirus that started in Saudi Arabia and is now turning up in France.

The World Health Organization confirms the virus can be passed from person to person in close contact. Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Nirav Patel at Saint Louis University Hospital says hospital officials are being vigilant here for anything unusual showing up.

“We’re also not in a panic mode either because the rate is still very low and I think you really do have to have a good, solid exposure to somebody who is ill,” he said. “So not just anybody coming in from the Middle East we are worrying about. We are worrying about people who are coming in from the Middle East with the respiratory symptoms that are present with the disease that have been around people that had the disease as well.”

Since it was first spotted last year, the coronavirus has infected 34 people, killing 18 of them.

“The new coronavirus is a bat virus that has somehow mutated and is now affecting humans,” Patel said. “The concern is that it could become like the SARS which is also a modified or a mutated coronavirus that occurred and had spread extensively among humans. The concern is that this could become like that but they’re not seeing any signs that it is.”


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