The Armageddon Virus: Why Experts Fear A Disease That Leaps From Animals To Humans Could Devastate Mankind Soon
Warning comes after man died from a Sars-like virus that had previously only been seen in bats
Earlier this month a man from Glasgow died from a tick-borne disease that is widespread in domestic and wild animals in Africa and Asia
By John Naish
15 October 2012
The symptoms appear suddenly with a headache, high fever, joint pain, stomach pain and vomiting.
As the illness progresses, patients can develop large areas of bruising and uncontrolled bleeding. In at least 30 per cent of cases, Crimean-Congo Viral Hemorrhagic Fever is fatal.
And so it proved this month when a 38-year-old garage owner from Glasgow, who had been to his brother’s wedding in Afghanistan, became the UK’s first confirmed victim of the tick-borne viral illness when he died at the high-security infectious disease unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital.
It is a disease widespread in domestic and wild animals in Africa and Asia — and one that has jumped the species barrier to infect humans with deadly effect.
But the unnamed man’s death was not the only time recently a foreign virus had struck in this country for the first time.
Last month, a 49-year-old man entered London’s St Thomas’ hospital with a raging fever, severe cough and desperate difficulty in breathing.
He bore all the hallmarks of the deadly Sars virus that killed nearly 1,000 people in 2003 — but blood tests quickly showed that this terrifyingly virulent infection was not Sars. Nor was it any other virus yet known to medical science.
Worse still, the gasping, sweating patient was rapidly succumbing to kidney failure, a potentially lethal complication that had never before been seen in such a case.
As medical staff quarantined their critically-ill patient, fearful questions began to mount. The stricken man had recently come from Qatar in the Middle East. What on earth had he picked up there? Had he already infected others with it?
Using the latest high-tech gene-scanning technique, scientists at the Health Protection Agency started to piece together clues from tissue samples taken from the Qatari patient, who was now hooked up to a life-support machine.
The results were extraordinary. Yes, the virus is from the same family as Sars. But its make-up is completely new. It has come not from humans, but from animals. Its closest known relatives have been found in Asiatic bats.
The investigators also discovered that the virus has already killed someone. Searches of global medical databases revealed the same mysterious virus lurking in samples taken from a 60-year-old man who had died in Saudi Arabia in July.