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France reports first case of new SARS-like virus

PARIS (Reuters) - France has identified its first case of a new strain of coronavirus emerging from the Middle East in a person recently returned from the United Arab Emirates, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The ministry said it had opened an investigation into what it said was the first and only confirmed case of the virus in France and would hold a news conference later in the day.

"The person has been placed in isolation in an intensive care ward," the ministry said in a statement.

The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) said it had been informed of the French case but had no further details.

Worldwide, there have been 30 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus, including 18 deaths, since it came to scientists' attention in September, according to WHO data.

The coronavirus is from the same viral family as the common cold and triggered the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that swept the world from Asia in late 2003, killing 775 people.

There is no evidence yet of sustained human-to-human spread of the new virus, but there are concerns about clusters of cases reported by the WHO in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Britain.

(Reporting by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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