New SARS-like Mystery Illness Emerges in Mideast The World Health Organization has confirmed multiple cases of a SARS-like virus, but it doesn't seem to be as contagious. New SARS-like Mystery Illness Emerges in Mideast : Discovery News news.discovery.com/human/sars-virus-middle-east... enlarge The SARS outbreak in China in 2004 exposed some flaws in plans to limit viral contamination. Click to enlarge this image. Getty Images The World Health Organization issued a global alert on Monday for a new SARS-like respiratory virus which left a man from Qatar critically ill in a London hospital and killed at least one more in Saudi Arabia. The 49-year-old Qatari was admitted to an intensive care unit in Doha on September 7 suffering from acute respiratory infection and kidney failure before being transferred to Britain by air ambulance on September 11, the WHO said. A Saudi Arabian national died earlier this year from a virtually identical virus, the WHO said, while Saudi medical authorities said they were investigating other possible cases of the disease. ANALYSIS: Diseases That Just Won't Quit The WHO confirmed the illness was in the coronavirus family but was not SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which swept out of China in 2003, killing more than 800 people worldwide. "This is a new virus," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told AFP. WATCH VIDEO: Viruses And Germs"We haven't heard of any more new cases. We don't have an appreciation of how widespread the virus is," Hartl said. "This is one reason why we're trying to get more information. We don't know how it's transmitted." The WHO said the Qatari first fell ill on September 3 after visiting Saudi Arabia. Britain's Health Protection Agency confirmed the presence of the new coronavirus and then found that it was a 99.5 percent match with a virus obtained from the lung tissue of a 60-year-old Saudi man who died earlier this year. Coronaviruses are causes of the common cold but can also include more severe illnesses including SARS. BIG PIC: Is Antarctica Home of the Next Miracle Drug? In Riyadh, the health ministry revealed that a total of three people, including the Qatari man, had been diagnosed with the virus after spending time in Saudi Arabia, according to state media. The other two later died. The ministry said it would continue to "follow developments" linked to the disease "in coordination with international health organizations," adding that "these are rare cases and the situation is reassuring". The announcement comes ahead of next month's annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca which will attract nearly three million believers, although the WHO said it did not recommend any travel restrictions. In Britain, the HPA, an organization set up by the government to manage infectious diseases, meanwhile, stressed no-one else in Britain, including those who had come into contact with the man, were reporting symptoms. ..