France confirms pair with SARS-like virus

PARIS – France has confirmed a second case of a deadly new respiratory virus related to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, authorities said Sunday as they increased efforts to inform the public about how to avoid the illness and watch for its signs.

A hospital roommate of the 65-year-old man who initially contracted the virus tested positive for the illness. The second patient’s condition has deteriorated, requiring treatment in intensive care, Health Minister Marisol Touraine said. The minister added that the first patient is “in a stable but worrisome situation.”

Touraine said pamphlets listing precautionary measures and potential signs of illness will be available at French airports for travelers, especially those visiting the Arabian Peninsula, where many virus cases have been reported.

The novel coronavirus has killed 18 people since being identified last year, out of more than 30 confirmed cases reported to the World Health Organization since September 2012. The first France patient had just returned from vacationing in Dubai on an organized tour when he fell ill.

The initial France patient shared a room with the second patient for a few days in late April at a hospital in Valenciennes. Now both are being treated at the Lille Hospital in northern France. Four other suspected cases, all people who had contact with the initial patient, were false alarms, officials said.

Most of those infected since the virus was identified had traveled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan.

The novel coronavirus is related to SARS, which killed some 800 people in a global epidemic in 2003, and belongs to a family of viruses that most often causes the common cold.

The virus is most closely related to a bat virus and scientists are also considering whether bats or animals such as camels or goats are a possible source of infection.

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