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Health

SARS-like virus confirmed in France, Saudi Arabia

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed cases of the SARS-like coronavirus in France and Saudi Arabia. The new cases bring the worldwide total beginning in September 2012 to 34, 18 of which were fatal.

In a press statement released on Sunday, the World Health Organization expressed its concern about recent discoveries of the infection, the novel coronavirus, NCoV, on two separate continents. The virus is a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which broke out a decade ago in eastern Asia and spread to humans from animal hosts, killing some 800 people.

The WHO still was not unable to confirm the origin of the virus, nor how widespread the virus had become.

The latest reports of illness came from the health care facility in Saudi Arabia, according to the statement. Saudi Arabian health care officials said seven patients had died as of Sunday after contracting the virus. An additional 22 patients were being treated for NCoV.

"Countries, both inside and outside of the region, [need] to increase their levels of awareness among all people…and to increase their levels of surveillance about this new infection," the statement warned, adding that heightened awareness in Saudi Arabia had helped officials take swift action.

Following the spike in coronavirus cases, Saudi Arabia's health ministry launched an investigation with the help of the WHO, according to the press release.

French officials also informed the international health organization of a second case on Sunday, which they believed had been transmitted through "close and prolonged contact" of two patients.

Several days ago in the northern French city of Valenciennes, doctors confirmed that a 50-year-old man had fallen ill after sharing a hospital room with a 65-year old who had contracted the virus following a trip to Dubai. Health officials diagnosed the latter case at the end of April.

kms/dr (AP, AFP, dpa)