PARIS — France today reported its first case of a new respiratory virus related to SARS, in a traveler returning from the United Arab Emirates.
The French Health Ministry said in a statement today that the person is hospitalized in isolation and is under medical surveillance in an undisclosed location. It says Paris’ Pasteur Institute analyzed the virus and confirmed that it is a novel coronavirus, the first such case in France.
The ministry said the patient is a French citizen, but would not immediately divulge the patient’s gender or age or any details. Health Minister Marisol Touraine plans a news conference later today to elaborate.
The new coronavirus, first identified last year in the Middle East, can cause acute pneumonia and kidney failure. Since September 2012, the World Health Organization has been informed of 24 confirmed cases, and 16 of the patients died.
WHO says the virus is probably more widespread than just the Middle East and has advised countries to test any people with unexplained pneumonia.
Several cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia. In the most recent Saudi outbreak, the Health Ministry has said five people have died and at least two others are hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus.
Health authorities are trying to determine how humans are contracting and spreading the virus. It does not appear to be as contagious as SARS or the flu, but it has probably spread between people who had close contact. It seems to have spread among family members in Britain and in health workers in Jordan who were caring for patients, for example.
The new coronavirus is most closely related to a bat virus and scientists are considering whether bats or other animals like goats or camels are a possible source of infection.
SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, killed some 800 people in a 2003 epidemic.