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France’s first victim of new SARS-like virus dies

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A 65-year-old-man Frenchman has become the first person in the country to die from the new SARS-like coronavirus, the French health ministry said on Tuesday. The French national was also the first person to contract the illness.


France’s first victim of the new SARS-like coronavirus has died, the country’s health ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

The 65-year-old man was first diagnosed with the disease on May 8 this year shortly after travelling to Dubai.

The man was being treated at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in the northern French city of Lille.

His was one of two confirmed cases of the disease in France, the other being that of a man who had shared a hospital room for three days with the now deceased patient.

French health officials have screened dozens of people who had come into contact with the two carriers in Lille, but so far no further cases have been confirmed in the country.

40 confirmed cases

Of the 40 cases of the disease confirmed worldwide since it was first identified last year, most have been reported in Saudi Arabia.

However, cases have also been confirmed in Jordan, Germany and Britain, with most of those contracting the disease having done so after travelling to the Arabian Peninsula.

The World Health Organization said in an update earlier this month that 22 of the confirmed cases of the disease have ended in death, a figure which has now risen to 23.

The new virus strain, known as nCoV, is related to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed close to 800 people in a global epidemic in 2003.

Little known about virus

While there is little evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of nCoV, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, health experts are concerned about how little is known about the new virus.

Dr Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, singled out the illness in a speech on Monday in Geneva.

"We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat,'' Chan said at the annual WHO meeting.

"We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond. "

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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