The World Health Organization is working double-time. While a team is helping China figure out how to deal with its bird flu outbreak (which now includes boiling baby chickens, apparently), the foremost public health group on the planet is keeping its eyes halfway around it — in France, where SARS's cousin novel coronavirus (NCoV) has appeared without warning. Even more puzzling: the new case appears to have been transmitted to and by a French man returning home from Dubai, where no cases of the disease have even been reported.
You see, if the 65-year-old French traveler had been visiting Saudi Arabia, where the mysterious, efficient killing machine has already claimed at least seven of its 18 victims over two months, the WHO might be closer to containing NCoV. But when there's already a lack of full transparency — the Saudis have been slow to report the deadly virus, and the French patient was hospitalized more than two weeks ago — the confusion over where it's coming from only adds to long list of reasons you might want to start panicking. Nonetheless: The WHO and the ministry of health in the United Arab Emirates have confirmed there are no cases of NCov in the UAE, and that the nation doesn't have to worry about travel restrictions or port screenings: "The Ministry of Health reassures that there are very limited diagnosed cases world-wide. There is no need for panic as the ministry is closely monitoring the situation and taking the necessary precautions to guarantee public safety," sources at the ministry told Emirates 24/7 news. In a report over at Agence France Presse, it seems like the WHO is focusing on the French connection: "The UAE was 'coordinating' with France on the case and 'closely following the health situation' although it was 'not a concern' in the emirate itself."
The unnamed French man, who travelled to Dubai for a week in mid-April, may already be spreading NCoV, which causes pneumonia and kidney failure: "On Thursday the health authorities in the Nord/Pas-de-Calais region said two more people were undergoing tests after showing symptoms of the virus," AFP reports. They were a man who had shared a room in hospital with the patient, and a doctor who treated him." According to the Associated Press, the WHO is up to 30 confirmed cases of the virus, including in Jordan, Qatar, Britain, and Germany. Tests for the French doctor and the roommate of France's Patient Zero will be revealed later on Friday.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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