Jan. 25 (UPI) — French health officials announced two cases of the deadly coronavirus Friday, the first two confirmed diagnoses in Europe, as China moved to lock down several cities in a desperate bid to keep it from spreading.
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said both cases involved people who traveled to China, where the virus originated.
“We have two cases,” she told reporters. “We will probably have other cases.”
One case involves a 48-year-old French man of Chinese origin who had flu-like symptoms in Bordeaux. The second involves a patient in Paris.
Chinese health officials said earlier Friday at least 26 people have died in the outbreak.
Beijing’s National Health Commission said there are more than 900 documented cases and more than 1,000 suspected cases of the virus worldwide. Most are in mainland China, with a smattering of cases in Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, the United States and now France. The virus in all confirmed cases are believed to have originated in Wuhan, China.
The United States confirmed its second diagnosis of the virus in Chicago involving a woman in her 60s who had traveled to Wuhan.
Officials said most of the deaths have occurred in the outbreak’s epicenter of Hubei province in central China. One was recorded in Hebei province.
Chinese officials said they have tracked down 9,500 close contacts of the carriers — of which some 8,400 were under medical observation. Hundreds of others have since been discharged.
Efforts to control the outbreak intensified in China on Friday. At least eight cities, including Wuhan, have been locked down to keep the virus from spreading — meaning transportation into and out of the cities is restricted. Several nations, including the United States, have issued advisories against traveling to China in the interim.
Officials estimate more than 20 million people in China are affected by the coronavirus-related restrictions.
Chinese media reported health authorities are racing to set up a 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan reserved for coronavirus patients, while science officials have established a team of 14 experts to help prevent and control the outbreak, including the development of a vaccine.
The start of the Chinese Lunar New Year this week, a time when many travel around the nation, has increased the risk of further spreading the virus.