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American dies of coronavirus; five Britons hospitalized with virus in France

Medical workers move a man into the isolation ward for 2019-nCoV patients at a hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.

CHINATOPIX VIA AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: February 8, 2020

Five people from Britain, including one child, are hospitalized in France with the new virus from China after contracting it during a holiday in the Alps.

A U.S. citizen died of the virus in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, in what was apparently the first American death. A Japanese being treated in Wuhan who was a suspected case also died.

Saturday's announcements are the latest example of how the tentacles of the virus can spread across multiple borders.

The five British citizens were staying in a chalet in the Alpine resort of Contamines-Montjoie, and were in close contact with another Briton who apparently contracted the virus in Singapore, traveled to the French Alps and then tested positive for the virus upon return to Britain, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told reporters Saturday.

That brings the total number of virus cases in France to 11. Britain has three confirmed cases. The new type of coronavirus has infected more than 34,800 people globally and killed more than 700, nearly all of them in China, since the first illnesses were detected in December.

The five British citizens with new cases of the virus are being held in Lyon-area hospitals, along with six other Britons who were in close contact with them and are now being monitored, the French health ministry said.

The chalet where they were staying housed a British family that lives in Contamines and another family of British vacationers. The sickened child lives in Contamines and attends a local school, and took French classes at another local school, regional officials told a news conference Saturday.

Both schools will be closed, and the pupils will be monitored for signs of the virus.

Local officials sought to reassure tourists descending this weekend on one of the world's most prized ski areas that all preventive measures are being taken to stem further spread of the virus.

“This cluster of cases in France illustrates how the coronavirus can spread to countries indirectly of China. The French ski resort will have citizens from numerous other countries there, so there are implications for potential onward transmission," said Dr. Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton. “Singapore is a major transport hub in south-east Asia, so going forward, we may well find further international cases that have traveled through Singapore.”

France's prime minister convened a special government meeting Saturday to discuss next steps in fighting the virus, and the government decided to harden its travel warning for China, cautioning against all travel there unless in case of “imperative” need.

The patient in Britain apparently contracted the virus after staying at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Singapore and attending a business conference there Jan. 20-22, Buzyn said. There were 94 foreigners in the hotel at the time, including people from Hubei, according to the French minister.

The British citizen then spent Jan. 24-28 in the French Alps, and tested positive for the virus after returning home this week.

In Germany, the latest case of the virus is the wife of a man previously infected who works for an auto parts supplier near Munich that has accounted for most of the 14 German cases confirmed so far.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said the U.S. citizen who died in Wuhan was 60 years old but did not identify the person.
 

France's Health Minister Agnes Buzyn arrives to a meeting in Paris, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Buzyn announced that five people from Britain, including one child, are hospitalized in France with coronavirus.
THIBAULT CAMUS/AP

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