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First SARS-Like Virus Related Death Reported in France

May 28, 2013 03:17 PM EDT
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A French patient infected with a deadly new respiratory virus related to SARS died Tuesday of the disease, which has already killed 22 of its 44 known victims, the Associated Press reported.

There are already two French citizens diagnosed with novel coronavirus (nCoV), and one of them died of organ failure Tuesday at University Hospital of Lille, the hospital said. The two unidentified men contracted nCoV while visiting the Arabian Peninsula, France's minister of social affairs and health Marisol Touraine said in a statement. The 65-year-old man who passed away was hospitalized May 9 with respiratory symptoms after a trip to Dubai in mid-April. The two men had shared a room while travelling abroad and no report was released on the condition of the 50-year-old travel companion.

Health officials screened 124 people who had come into contact with him and carried out laboratory tests on at least five, including three medical staff.

The new virus from the SARS family has killed 22 people since it was found on the Arabian Peninsula last summer and has since spread to France, Britain and Germany.  There has so far been little evidence of direct and sustained human-to-human transmission of nCoV - in contrast to the pattern seen in the related Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, which killed 775 people in 2003.

In a statement earlier in May the World Health Organization said: "The greatest global concern, however, is about the potential for this new virus to spread.

"This is partly because the virus has already caused severe disease in multiple countries, although in small numbers, and has persisted in the [Middle East] region since 2012.

"Of most concern, however, is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact this novel coronavirus can transmit from person to person."

Cases have been confirmed in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). France, Germany, Tunisia and the U.K. also reported laboratory-confirmed cases, but they were either transferred for care or returned from Middle East and subsequently got sick. At this time, the WHO has not recommended travel or trade restrictions.

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