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Dangerous virus newly found in humans diagnosed in France

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Thu May 9, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Out of 31 confirmed cases of infection, the NCoV virus has killed at least 18 people
  • The virus is related to one that causes the common cold, also a coronavirus
  • NCoV has been compared to SARS, which killed about 10% of its confirmed victims

(CNN) -- A newly discovered and often deadly virus related to one that causes the common cold has struck another victim, this time in France.

A man hospitalized in April is infected with the novel coronavirus, France's Health Ministry said Thursday.

The NCoV virus was recently found for the first time in humans and scattered cases have occurred across parts of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia.

It has proved deadly in more than half of the confirmed cases so far, according to the World Health Organization. Of 31 people with confirmed infections, at least 18 have died.

But infectious disease specialists believe the virus is very difficult to catch.

The newly infected man is the first confirmed infection in France, the Health Ministry said. He had recently returned from travel to the United Arab Emirates, which is on the Arabian Peninsula.

Identifying the source of the man's ailment took time, the ministry said. France's Pasteur Institute confirmed the case Wednesday. The Health Ministry is seeking anyone who may have had contact with the patient.

NCoV, like some common colds, is also caused by a coronavirus. And like a cold, it attacks the respiratory system, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said.

But symptoms are severe and can lead to pneumonia and even kidney failure.

"Once it gets you, it's a very serious infection," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

NCoV has also been compared to related coronavirus, the one that causes SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which appears to have been contained in 2004, according to the CDC.

Although its discovery in humans is new, NCoV would seem potentially deadlier, when contracted, than SARS.

Of the some 8,000 verified cases of SARS, fewer than 800 people -- less than one-tenth of those infected -- died.

CNN's Marilia Brocchetto and Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

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