French Health Ministry Confirms Three New Cases Of Novel Coronavirus
May 10, 2013

French Health Ministry Confirms Three New Cases Of Novel Coronavirus

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Two days after French health officials confirmed the first case of novel coronavirus (NCoV) in their country, a spokeswoman for the regional health authority of Northern France said two health care workers who cared for the 65-year-old infected man are under surveillance on suspicion of being infected as well.

Beatrice Degrugillers said a doctor and nurse were hospitalized Thursday night and are continuing to be monitored closely. A third person who shared the room with the infected man is also under close surveillance, said Degrugillers.

Test results are expected sometime today to see if they, in fact, have an NCoV infection. If the results are positive, it will heighten the concerns about the virus´ ability to spread easily among humans. Currently, health experts believe there is no sustained human-to-human transmission of the disease, despite a British family becoming infected in February after a relative returned home from a trip to the Middle East.

Health authorities have previously said the virus only spreads in limited circumstances between people who are in extremely close contact with the infected, such as family members or health care workers, such as in the French case.

The 65-year-old man, who has not been identified, returned home from a nine-day trip to Dubai on April 17. He was hospitalized due to a respiratory infection on April 23 and was transferred to a more advanced facility on April 29. The Health Ministry said Wednesday he was in “worrying condition.”

The Ministry said they had tested others from his tour group who were in possible contact with the Frenchman, but none had tested positive for the virus.

French officials have since moved to calm the public.

"It is not a health catastrophe; we are taking the systematic measures for the case of an illness that risks being transmittable," Sandrine Segiovia-Kueny, deputy director of the public health agency in the Nord Pas de Calais region, said on French radio station RTL Friday, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The World Health Organization (WHO), as well as other health agencies around the world including the CDC, has been monitoring the situation closely.

The NCoV causes serious respiratory illness, with patients having high fever, cough, breathing difficulties and possible kidney failure. The mortality rate is currently above 50 percent, with 18 of 33 confirmed cases resulting in death.

The virus, which is similar to the common cold and SARS, was first discovered in humans in September, but some cases have now been identified dating back to last April, WSJ reported.

Most of the cases have been isolated in the Middle East — Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. France has now been added to the very short list of countries outside the Middle East that have seen cases of NCoV; Britain and Germany are the only other two countries with confirmed infections so far.

The WHO has also received a report from Saudi deputy health minister Ziad Memish via email, noting that web-based disease monitoring system ProMED has found two previously unreported cases of NCoV in Saudi Arabia on May 8.

One patient was a 48-year-old man with existing medical conditions who became ill on April 29. The second patient was a 58-year-old man who also had existing medical conditions who became ill on April 6. He fully recovered and was discharged on May 3; the former is still hospitalized but is in stable condition, according to a Reuters report.

Memish told the WHO, via the email, Saudi authorities have worked since May 1 to bring the virus under control and have been instrumental and keeping new cases from emerging.

Still, French authorities are taking no chances and have advised anyone who has recently traveled to the Middle East to consult a doctor for checkup, especially if they have a fever or other flu-like symptoms.

The WHO currently has no travel advisories or restrictions to the Middle East.