| 13.7°C Dublin

Health chiefs on alert as two contract lethal virus in France

PUBLIC health authorities have been urged to be on alert for possible cases of the SARS-like virus which has now been contracted by two patients in France.

The novel coronavirus (NCoV) is causing renewed concern over clusters of cases of a new strain and the potential for it to spread.

Since 2012, there have been 34 confirmed cases across Europe and the Middle East, with 18 deaths, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Cases have been detected in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and have spread to Germany, the UK and France.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said: "Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all member states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

"Testing for NCoV should be considered in patients with unexplained pneumonias, or in patients with unexplained severe, progressive illness or complicated respiratory illness not responding to treatment, particularly in persons travelling from or resident in areas of the world known to be affected."

It said that the departments of public health around the country should be on the alert for any cases here.

WHO warned: "Of most concern. . . is that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact, (the virus) can transmit from person to person."

It was informed of a second laboratory-confirmed case by France's Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The patient shared a hospital room in Valenciennes with the first laboratory-confirmed patient from April 27 to 29. The patient is currently isolated in an infectious disease hospital.

"In Saudi Arabia, an investigation is ongoing into an outbreak in a health care facility, where 15 patients, including seven deaths have been confirmed.

"From September 2012 to May 8, 2013, WHO has been informed of a global total of 34 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with nCoV, including 18 deaths."

Irish Independent