Health and Science

France confirms first three cases of coronavirus in Europe

Key Points
  • 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.
A staff member checks the temperature of a guest entering the casino of the New Orient Landmark hotel in Macau on January 22, 2020, after the former Portuguese colony reported its first case of the new SARS-like virus that originated from Wuhan in China.
Anthony Wallace | Getty Images

France confirmed on Friday its first three cases of the Wuhan coronavirus, with two patients being hospitalized in Paris and the other in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

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 a patient of Chinese origin who was showing symptoms of a fever and who said he had been in contact with people from Wuhan province in China, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Buzyn said this 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 insulated room so as to avoid any contact with the outside world. He's fine", she said.

Buzyn said she had no information yet on the second case, in Paris, which had just been confirmed.

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.

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

Health officials are trying to contain the fast-spreading illness without unnecessarily spooking global trade. WHO physicians said they needed more data before declaring a global emergency, but the virus is now spreading through close human contact and in health-care settings, they said.

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 press conferences on the issue

The flu-like coronavirus, first identified on Dec. 31, has killed at least 26 people in China and infected more than 900 worldwide.

U.S. health officials said Friday they diagnosed a second patient with the China coronavirus — a Chicago woman who returned from Wuhan with the infection, and they are monitoring dozens of other potential cases here.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually infect animals but can sometimes evolve and spread to humans. Symptoms in humans include fever, coughing and shortness of breath, which can progress to pneumonia.

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CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace contributed to this report.