Health Officials Confirm First Case Of Novel Coronavirus In France
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The French Health Ministry on Wednesday reported the first case of the SARS-like novel coronavirus (NCoV) in the country after a 65-year-old Frenchman contracted a respiratory illness on a recent trip to Dubai. Health authorities said they are trying to find anyone who may have been in contact with him to prevent it from spreading.
The Health Ministry said they do not yet know how or where exactly the man picked up the virus, but do know that he first became ill after a nine-day vacation to the Middle East. Jean-Yves Grall, the health director for the French government, said the patient is in “worrying condition” under isolation and medical surveillance.
The Frenchman, whose identity has not been released, returned from Dubai on April 17 and was hospitalized with respiratory problems in Valenciennes six days later on April 23. He was then transferred to a more advanced facility on April 29, Grall said in a news conference on Wednesday (May 8).
The Health Ministry said “this is the first and only confirmed case in France to date.” NCoV, which has so far killed 18 people, mostly in Saudi Arabia, was first detected in September 2012. Since then, more than 30 cases have been reported in the Middle East, Britain and now France.
The novel coronavirus is similar to the common cold and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which first appeared a decade ago in East Asia, killing nearly 800 people. NCoV is also common to the virus found in bats, and may have leapfrogged from those winged creatures to human hosts. While cases are continuing to rise, there is no evidence yet of sustained transmissions from human-to-human.
The French Health Ministry said most of those who have been infected with NCoV had “spent time, before the symptoms appeared, in one of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula or in neighboring countries.”
Marisol Touraine of the Health Ministry told The Associated Press that 20 people in France have been examined to determine if symptoms they showed were related to NCoV, but 19 have so far turned up negative, with the 65-year-old being the only confirmed case in France.
Touraine said the man´s family have been tested and are not infected and other travelers in his tour group and health care workers who were in contact with him are now being tested.
Health officials are now trying to reach out to anyone else who may have been in contact with the patient before he was hospitalized. A national hotline was set up on Wednesday to allow the public to call about the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it does not have enough information to determine how the virus is transmitted and from where it originates, but has called for international vigilance, according to an AFP report.
The WHO is further asking health officials in countries to test any people who have unexplained pneumonia or other respiratory infections.
“Any virus that has the potential to develop into something that is highly transmissible between people, including the coronavirus, is a major concern,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said. “We need to follow up on all possible routes of infection, i.e. animal to human, whether it´s being spread in hospitals or from human-to-human.”
Health officials are continuing efforts to determine how humans are contracting and spreading the virus. If it is spread human-to-human, experts say it does not appear to be as contagious as SARS or influenza. However, it did seem to spread easily in a British family who were in contact with a relative who visited the Middle East at the beginning of the year. Health care workers in Jordan also became infected after caring for patients with NCoV.
Since the novel coronavirus is most closely related to the virus found in bats, scientists are looking there to see if there is a link. They also are considering other animals such as goats and camels as possible sources of infection.
Hartl told AFP it is currently unclear whether there is something specific in the environment in the Middle East where most cases have been confirmed.