France today announced three confirmed cases of the deadly new virus from China, the first reported in Europe, and the country's health minister said other new cases will likely follow.
Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said earlier said two sickened people had traveled to China. They were hospitalised, in isolation, one in Paris, the other in the southwestern city of Bordeaux. A third person was later confirmed.
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 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 cases very quickly."
One of the people sickened, a 48-year-old man, passed through Wuhan, the epicenter in China for the virus, before traveling to France this week, the minister said. He has been hospitalised in Bordeaux since yesterday.
The other person is hospitalised in a large city hospital in Paris. The minister said that person also travelled 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 Bordeaux patient 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.
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 US, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The US 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.
The French minister promised "total transparency" as the country battles the new outbreak and said her ministry would give daily news updates "so there is no false information on social networks".