January 24, 2020 / 7:37 PM / 2 months ago

France confirms first three cases of coronavirus in Europe

PARIS (Reuters) - France confirmed on Friday its first three cases of the Wuhan coronavirus, with two patients being hospitalised in Paris and the other in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

A worker in protective suits checks the temperature of a passenger arriving at the Xianning North Station on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, in Xianning, a city bordering Wuhan to the north, in Hubei province, China January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Martin Pollard

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told a news conference authorities had confirmed two cases, Europe’s first, and that more cases were likely to occur in France.

In a separate statement on Friday, the health ministry announced the third case, a relative of one of the first two.

Earlier, the charity SOS Medecins said it had treated one of the cases, a patient of Chinese origin who was showing symptoms of a fever and who said he had been in contact with people from Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Buzyn said the patient was 48 years old and had returned two days ago from a trip to China which included a stop in Wuhan.

“He’s been put in an isolated room so as to avoid any contact with the outside world. He’s fine”, she said.

Most of the cases and all of the deaths so far have been in China, where officials have imposed severe restrictions on travel and public gatherings.

The virus has created alarm, but there are still many unknowns surrounding it, such as just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can lead to pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the virus an “emergency in China”, but stopped short of declaring it a global health emergency.

Buzyn said the official advice to those suspecting they might have caught the virus was not to go to hospital - to avoid spreading it - but to call a special number where they would be told what to do.

The minister said she planned to hold daily news conferences on the issue.

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Jean-Philippe Lefief; Editing by Gareth Jones and Rosalba O'Brien

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