A new respiratory virus which has killed 18 of the 31 infected cases has arisen in Saudi Arabia, where teams of Arabian physicians, members of the World Health Organization, and infectious disease specialists from the United States are all investigating jointly. This virus is a coronavirus, the same type (but genetically different) of the virus that originated in Chinses poultry and became the SARS virus when it infected man. The disease has developed in clusters of people. In one Arabian cluster of 15 people infected with the virus, 9 died. The most recent infection detected was in a man in France who inhabited the same hospital room as a person who returned from Dubai to France and was found to have the virus.
The virus has a predilection for elderly people with underlying chronic medical conditions that might impair their ability to fight disease. There is some evidence for people-to-people transmission, but this connection is weak and not 100%. For instance, only one doctor taking care of a patient has developed the disease. But since there are 4 clusters of the disease, this is evidence for weak person-to-person transmission.
At this point, we do not know the (presumed) animal reservoir of the disease. This disease has the potential to mutate and become much more infective and transmissible, which could create a weak epidemic or a strong pandemic. There is no antiviral currently on the market that treats this
infection, and efforts are just starting to sequence its genome and to develop a vaccine. There is not much more to say, except to recommending avoiding travels to areas in the Middle East where this new coronavirus has been found, as well as avoiding travels to areas of China and Taiwan where the new bird flu, InfluenzaA-N7H9 has been detected.
I strongly recommend following ProMED,com, the daily e-mailing of the International Society of Infectious Disease (ISID) for up to date information on both viruses.