France confirms 2 cases of virus from China, 1st in Europe


PARIS (AP) – France on Friday announced two confirmed cases of the deadly new virus from China, the first reported in Europe, and the country’s health minister said new cases were likely to follow.

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said both of the sickened people had traveled to China. They were hospitalized, in isolation, one in Paris, the other in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

In part because of Europe’s open borders, the minister said she expects more cases.

“We see how difficult it is in today’s world to close the frontiers. In reality, it’s not possible,” she said

“We have two cases,” she added. “We will probably have other cases.”

Buzyn said speed in diagnosing new cases will be essential in slowing the spread of the virus. She said she believes that one reason why France is the first European country to have confirmed cases is that it has developed a test allowing medics to rapidly diagnose the sickened.

“You have to treat an epidemic as you would a fire, that’s to say find the source very quickly,” she said.

One of people sickened, a 48-year-old man, passed through Wuhan, the epicenter in China for the virus, before traveling to France on Wednesday, the minister said. That person is hospitalized in Bordeaux.

The other person is hospitalized in a large city hospital in Paris. The minister said that person also traveled to China but that she had little other information about the case. It was confirmed shortly before she spoke at a news conference.

The Bordeaux patient was in contact with about 10 people before he was taken into care, the minister said. French authorities are seeking to contact them.

The minister urged people who suspect they’ve sickened to call emergency services and to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus. She said those who came into contact with the Bordeaux patient would be told likewise.

The number of confirmed cases around the world has climbed sharply to more than 850, the bulk of them in China. There have been at least 25 deaths, all of them in China.

The vast majority of cases have been in and around Wuhan or involved people who visited the city or had personal connections to those infected.

Fewer than two dozen cases in all have been confirmed outside mainland China, in Hong Kong, Macao, the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The U.S. reported its second case, involving a Chicago woman in her 60s who was hospitalized after returning from China. She was reported to be doing well.