France on Friday announced three confirmed cases of the deadly new virus from China, the first outside Asia and the United States.
Authorities said all three sickened people had traveled to China. Two of them belonged to the same family. They were the first cases registered in Europe.
Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said she expects more cases and that the virus must be battled like a wildfire. She said the likely reason that France has the first European cases is that it quickly developed a test allowing medics to rapidly diagnose the sickened.
France'ss health minister said Europe should brace for other new cases from the spreading epidemic that she said must be fought like a wildfire.
Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said the two confirmed cases, Europe's first, both involved people who had traveled to China, where hundreds of people have fallen ill and more than two dozen have died. The sickened patients in France were quickly 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.
Buzyn said speed in diagnosing new cases will be essential in slowing the spread of the virus. She said the likely reason that France has the first European cases is that it quickly 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. “We identified the first positive cases very quickly."
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. He has been hospitalized in Bordeaux since Thursday. She said he is a French national who traveled to China for work and who lives in the Bordeaux area.
Another 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 that case because it was only confirmed just minutes before she spoke at a hastily called evening 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 two sickened patients would be told likewise.
“It's important to control the fire as quickly as possible. Hence the need to piece together patient histories and to find people who were in contact with the patient,” she said.
“We will do everything possible to confine this epidemic," she pledged.
The French minister promised “total transparency” as the country battles the outbreak and said her ministry would give daily news updates “so there is no false information on social networks.”
She was reported to be doing well.
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