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Traveller has killer Sars-like coronavirus after trip to UAE

Officials have confirmed that the traveller in a French hospital has coronavirus - a potentially deadly new respiratory virus related to Sars.

A traveller who visited the UAE is in hospital in France after being found to have a potentially deadly new respiratory virus related to Sars, it has been reported.

Health authorities in France have confirmed the country's first case of novel coronavirus and say the victim, a Frenchman aged 65, had just returned from the UAE.

It is the second novel coronavirus case linked to the UAE in two months.

The French Health Ministry said yesterday that the victim was in isolation and under medical surveillance.

It said the Pasteur Institute in Paris analysed the virus and confirmed it was a novel coronavirus, the first such case in France.

The French authorities said they were trying to find anyone who might have been in contact with the man to prevent the virus from spreading. It is unclear how or where he was infected.

Between September last year and Monday this week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been told of 30 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus around the world.

Of those, 18 people have died.

Most of the cases originated in Saudi Arabia but the UAE, UK, Qatar and Germany all have links to the virus.

The WHO has advised countries to test any people with unexplained pneumonia.

"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, that is animal to human, whether it's being spread in hospitals or from human to human."

The French victim has been in under observation in a hospital in Douai, northern France, since April 23 and is receiving respiratory assistance and blood transfusions, said Jean-Yves Grall, the government health director.

Mr Hartl confirmed the WHO had been notified of the case.

The French health minister, Marisol Touraine, said it was an isolated case but authorities were "fully mobilised" to stop it spreading. A national hotline was yesterday established for the public to call about the virus.

The new coronavirus, first identified last year, can cause acute pneumonia and kidney failure.

The Dubai Health Authority yesterday said it was monitoring the situation.

"We have been keeping a close eye on the situation since World Health Organisation first reported the disease outbreak last year," a DHA spokeswoman said.

"The DHA, in collaboration with Ministry of Health, is closely following the World Health Organisation and Centres of Disease Control and Prevention protocols.

"All health institutions are aware of the virus and its symptoms. We urge health institutions to investigate any cases of people who have symptoms of serious lung infection, like pneumonia, and this is a protocol that is being followed internationally.

"Health and other relevant authorities in the UAE are taking all necessary measures."

The spokeswoman said there had been no travel advisories issued by WHO.

In March, an Emirati man died in a hospital in Germany after contracting the virus.

The man, who was 73, had been transferred by air ambulance to Munich from a hospital in Abu Dhabi on March 19. German doctors diagnosed a novel coronavirus infection and the man was pronounced dead on March 26.

It is not known where he contracted the virus, although he had recently visited Saudi Arabia.

The WHO is trying to determine how humans are catching and spreading the coronavirus, and how best to treat it.

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 the UK and in health workers in Jordan.

Sars, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, killed about 800 people in a 2003 epidemic.

 

ecleland@thenational.ae

jbell@thenational.ae

 

* With Associated Press

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