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France rules out SARS-like virus for two patients

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France rules out SARS-like virus for two patients
MERS seen under an electron microscope. France reported two new suspected cases over the weekend. Photo: British Health Protection Agency/AFP
18:03 CEST+02:00
French authorities have reversed earlier claims that two men hospitalized in Tours after returning from Saudi Arabia were infected with a deadly virus formerly known as coronavirus, but now labeled MERS, it emerged on Wednesday.

France's Minister for Health Marisol Touraine on Wednesday announced, "the tests have come back negative," reversing an announcement by French authorities on Tuesday that two men, recently-returned from Saudi Arabia, had become infected with the virus.

French medical authorities had on Tuesday reported two new suspected cases of infection with the SARS-like virus MERS which has killed more than 30 people worldwide, the bulk of them in Saudi Arabia.

In the latest scare, two men were reported to have been hospitalised in the town of Tours southwest of Paris on Tuesday.

The virus was quickly ruled out as an explanation for the symptoms of one of them and tests cleared the other one.

France has had two confirmed cases of MERS to date, including one which led to a death in the northern town of Lille last month.

In its most recent update on the virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on June 7th that there had been 55 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus, 31 of which had resulted in the affected individuals dying.

Previously known as novel coronavirus, the disease was last month renamed Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS-CoV.

The WHO believes 26 of the 31 people who have died contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia.

The virus is a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which sparked a global scare in 2003 after jumping to humans from animals in Asia and claiming 800 lives.

Like SARS, MERS appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from a temperature, cough and breathing difficulty.

But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure and the extremely high death rate has caused serious concern among health experts.

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