A new strain of coronavirus claims another life...this time in France. A 65-year-old man who had been traveling in Dubai has died from the illness, the French health ministry said. He was the first Frenchman to fall ill from the SARS-like coronavirus. The World Health Organization says the virus, which causes coughing, fever and pneumonia, can likely be passed between humans, but only after prolonged, close contact. Out of 44 confirmed cases worldwide, 23 people have now died with most of those infected having traveled in the Middle East. A virus from the same family triggered the SARS outbreak in Asia that killed 775 people in 2003.
The director-general of the United Nations' World Health Organization said today that the virus is "a threat to the entire world."
"The so-called novel coronavirus "is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself," Margaret Chan said Monday in her closing remarks at the 66th World Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
The world needs to pull together its resources to properly tackle the virus which, Chan said, is her "greatest concern" at present.
"We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat," she said, and more information is needed "quickly" and "urgently."
"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," she said.
Novel coronavirus is part of a family called coronaviruses, which cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, as well as a variety of animal diseases. However, the new virus is not SARS."
The WHO appear to have given the novel coronavirus a name: Middle East respiratory symptom coronavirus, or MERS-CoV.
The male patient who died in a French hospital on Tuesday with the coronavirus died of organ failure. He was the first of two people to be diagnosed with novel coronavirus, and died at University Hospital of Lille, where he had been treated since May 9th. The second patient, also male, was in stable but very serious condition, the hospital said. One of the patients shared a room with the other and contracted the virus.
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Earlier this month, the WHO said two health care workers in Saudi Arabia became ill while treating patients.
Novel coronavirus acts like a cold virus and attacks the respiratory system, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said. But symptoms, which include fever and a cough, are severe and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea have also been seen, according to the WHO.
Cases have been identified in eight countries including France and Saudi Arabia, according to the WHO. Other European countries include Germany and the United Kingdom.
"People have also become infected in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. On Saturday, the World Health Organization announced a new case in the United Kingdom -- the third case confirmed this month, all in the same family.
One of those three people has died, Britain's Health Protection Agency said Tuesday. "This patient had an underlying condition that may have made them more susceptible to respiratory infections," the agency said in a statement.
The person died Sunday in Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham's critical care unit, the hospital said.
"The patient was already an outpatient at QEHB, undergoing treatment for a long-term, complex unrelated health condition," the hospital said. "The patient was immuno-compromised and is believed to have contracted the virus from a relative who is being treated for the condition in a Manchester hospital."
The first patient, who had traveled recently to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, was being treated, the Health Protection Agency said. The third case had "a mild illness" and has recovered."
No cases have been reported in the United States, but infectious disease experts have said it would not be surprising.