A second case of a new SARS-like coronavirus has been diagnosed in France, the Health Ministry said on Sunday, in what appeared to be a case of human-to-human transmission.
The new infection was found in a patient who had shared a hospital room with the only other confirmed sufferer in France, the ministry said in a statement.
Health experts are concerned about clusters of cases of the new coronavirus strain, nCoV, which started in the Gulf and has spread to France, Britain and Germany. But there has so far been little evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.
Professor Benoit Guery, head of the Lille hospital’s infectious diseases unit, said the second infection suggested that airborne transmission of the virus was possible, although the ministry noted that the roommates had had “close and prolonged contact”.
“The transmission chain is becoming clearer,” Guery told BFM Television.
France’s second case was confirmed in a 50-year-old man who had shared a hospital room in Valenciennes, northern France, with a 65-year-old who had fallen ill after returning from Dubai and was later diagnosed with the disease.
Both men are now in hospital in the nearby city of Lille, where they are being kept in isolation.
Health officials screened 124 people who had come into contact with the first confirmed case, and carried out laboratory tests on at least five, including three health professionals.
All came back negative except his former hospital roommate, who had shared a room with him between April 27 and 29, the ministry said.
French health authorities are now broadening their screening effort to include anyone who has been in contact with the second confirmed case.
The latest diagnosis brings the number of cases confirmed globally to 34, after Saudi Arabia said two people admitted to hospital there in April had tested positive for the disease.