A 65 year old man died in northern France from the new SARS like virus. The unnamed man became the first of two confirmed cases of the strain of coronavirus in France this month after returning from a trip to the United Arab Emirates in April.
The WHO has been closely monitoring the new strain since it was first discovered in humans in September. The death in France brings the known death toll to 24 out of 44 confirmed cases worldwide. The strain is a distant relation to SARS – which broke out in Hong Kong in 2003 and eventually led to hundreds of deaths across the world – that also causes serious respiratory illness.
With most cases coming from the Middle East, or from recent travelers to the region, international health authorities last week named the virus Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS CoV.
Saudi Arabia accounts for the bulk of confirmed cases, which stands at 33, according to WHO. Tunisia last week became the ninth country in which the virus has been confirmed.
While transmission of the virus isn’t fully understood, it spreads by means including person-to-person contact but so far doesn’t appear to spread easily in communities at large. Authorities believe initial transmission of the virus was from animal to human but have yet to identify the animal sources.
“We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat,” Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, said in closing remarks of the organization’s annual assembly proceedings on Monday. “Any new disease that is emerging faster than our understanding is never under control.”
Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO said the “novel coronavirus…is a threat to the entire world.”
Source: World Health Organization, Switzerland