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Coronavirus: British nine-year-old in hospital in France | World news

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Coronavirus: British nine-year-old in hospital in France | World news

A nine-year-old British child diagnosed with coronavirus is in hospital in France.

The child is one of five Britons who tested positive for the virus. Another six UK nationals are being kept under observation in French hospitals.

The group had been staying in two apartments in a ski chalet in the Haute-Savoie region in the eastern French Alps when they were visited by a Briton who had been in Singapore and was found to have the virus when he returned to the UK at the end of last month.

The French health minister Agnès Buzyn said none of the patients were in a serious condition. She described the new outbreak as a “cluster, grouping around one original case”.

Jean-Yves Grall, the head of the regional health authority, told journalists the child lived in the ski resort with their parents and two siblings. The child’s mother was in the UK taking exams and the children were with their father. The six other Britons were in a second apartment in the same chalet. He did not give details of where the visitor believed to have brought the virus from Singapore had stayed.

The local health authority is disinfecting the building and is searching for anyone who might have come into contact with the group.

Grall said the infected child had attended school in Les Contamines-Montjoie and had recently spent a day at a second school in the nearby town of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains.

He said the schools would be shut next week as the authorities tried to determine with whom the child had come into contact.

Étienne Jacquet, the mayor of Les Contamines-Montjoie, said: “I was called by the regional health agency at 12.30am [on Saturday] about two British families. Seven were in one chalet and four in another. Of the 11 people, five have tested positive for the coronavirus.”

Édouard Philippe, the French prime minister, called a meeting of health ministers on Saturday and the ministry has opened a UK hotline (0800 100 379) in an attempt to find out who else may have been in contact with the Britons.

Buzyn said: “We’re starting an important operation to identify cases of those in contact.

“That original case was brought to our attention last night. It is a British national who had returned from Singapore where he had stayed between 20 and 23 January, and he arrived in France on 24 January for four days.”

As well as the five who tested positive for the virus, the others were being kept under surveillance in hospitals in Lyon, Saint Etienne and Grenoble.

The Briton at the origin of the cluster returned to the UK on 28 January, a French health official said.

Grenoble hospital said it was not authorised to give any more information.

The local newspaper Le Dauphiné, reported that Marie-Charlotte Pasquier of the Les Contamines-Montjoie tourist office had spent the morning reassuring tourists in the resort. There has been no public announcement but the town hall has been distributing leaflets with advice on how to avoid transmitting coronavirus. Local doctors have sent a consignment of disinfectant and face masks to the town hall.

Pasquier said: “We are in permanent contact with the local health authorities and have put in place a number where people can contact and ask questions and a doctor will reply. We are there to inform and reassure people.”

The latest outbreak brings the total number of people infected with the virus in France to 11. Health officials said some of the original six cases, who are being treated in hospital in Paris and Bordeaux, were ready to be released.

What is the virus causing illness in Wuhan?

It is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city.

What other coronaviruses have there been?

New and troubling viruses usually originate in animal hosts. Ebola and flu are other examples – severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals. 

What are the symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus?

The virus causes pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. If people are admitted to hospital, they may get support for their lungs and other organs as well as fluids. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.

Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?

Human to human transmission has been confirmed by China’s national health commission, and there have been human-to-human transmissions in the US and in Germany. As of 8 February, the death toll stands at 722 inside China, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines. Infections inside China stand at 31,161 and global infections have passed 280 in 28 countries. The mortality rate is 2%.

Two members of one family have been confirmed to have the virus in the UK, and a third person was diagnosed with it in Brighton, after more than 400 were tested and found negative. The Foreign Office has urged UK citizens to leave China if they can. Five new cases in France are British nationals, and British nationals are also among the 64 cases on a cruise liner off Japan.

The number of people to have contracted the virus could be far higher, as people with mild symptoms may not have been detected. Modelling by World Health Organization (WHO) experts at Imperial College London suggests there could be as many as 100,000 cases, with uncertainty putting the margins between 30,000 and 200,000.

Why is this worse than normal influenza, and how worried are the experts?

We don’t yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we won’t know until more data comes in. The mortality rate is around 2%. However, this is likely to be an overestimate since many more people are likely to have been infected by the virus but not suffered severe enough symptoms to attend hospital, and so have not been counted. For comparison, seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% and is thought to cause about 400,000 deaths each year globally. Sars had a death rate of more than 10%.

Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?

Unless you have recently travelled to China or been in contact with someone infected with the virus, then you should treat any cough or cold symptoms as normal. The NHS advises that people should call 111 instead of visiting the GP’s surgery as there is a risk they may infect others.

Is this a pandemic and should we panic?

Health experts are starting to say it could become a pandemic, but right now it falls short of what the WHO would consider to be one. A pandemic, in WHO terms, is “the worldwide spread of a disease”. Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in about 25 countries outside China, but by no means in all 195 on the WHO’s list.

There is no need to panic. The spread of the virus outside China is worrying but not an unexpected development. The WHO has declared the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern, and says there is a “window of opportunity” to halt the spread of the disease. The key issues are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people and what proportion become severely ill and end up in hospital. Often viruses that spread easily tend to have a milder impact.

Sarah Boseley Health editor and Hannah Devlin 

This Saturday is one of the busiest days of the year for French ski resorts because it is the start of school holidays in the Paris region. The February holidays in France begin on three consecutive Saturdays and are staggered over five weeks.

At a newsagents shop in Les Contamines-Montjoie one resident said local people were worried.

“It’s not just the news but the disinformation that’s worrying,” she said.

Other shops and hotels referred callers to the local town hall.

Les Contamines-Montjoie, 75 minutes from Geneva and sitting between Chamonix and Megève, has a population of about 1,160 people, which increases during the tourist season in winter. It is close to Mont Blanc and popular with mountaineers and skiiers. The word contamines does not mean “contaminated” as some supposed on social media but “ploughable land on the squire’s estate”.

Meanwhile, a student in Brighton has been told to self-isolate after a confirmed case of coronavirus, according to Sky News. The middle-aged man was the first British national to contract the virus after he travelled to the UK from Singapore.

In a message sent to parents on Friday, Portslade Aldridge community academy (Paca) said: “Today we have been contacted by a parent of a student at Paca who was contacted by Public Health England as part of their investigation concerning the confirmed case that was reported in the press yesterday.

“We have been informed by the parent that they have been advised by Public Health England to self-isolate their child at home for 14 days. If at any point the child is found to be symptomatic we will be notified.”

Four members of a British family living in Mallorca are being tested for coronavirus after coming into contact with a person who recently tested positive for the virus in France.

The Balearic Islands health department said the father of the family had gone to Mallorca’s Son Espases hospital after feeling ill and was placed in isolation. His partner and their two daughters were being evaluated in the same hospital.

The health department said it had activated its coronavirus protocol. “In accordance with professional guidelines, the man remains in isolation and all members of the family have been tested and the tests sent to a laboratory. All remain at the hospital,” it said.

The department urged people to remain calm while the tests were carried out and said it was working closely with Spain’s health ministry.

Spain confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on 31 January after a man was diagnosed on the remote La Gomera island in the Canaries.

The patient is part of a group of five people in isolation and under observation on the island after it emerged they had come into contact with a German man diagnosed with the virus.

US officials have announced that a 60-year-old citizen had become the first foreign victim of the coronavirus in China. A Japanese man also died in Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, having had symptoms consistent with the disease.

A US embassy spokesman in Beijing told Reuters: “We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss. Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we have no further comment.”

A British man with the virus is said to be feeling well and in good spirits after being transferred from the cruise ship Diamond Princess to hospital in Japan.

Alan Steele, of Wolverhampton, who was on honeymoon on the ship, was moved to hospital on Friday while his wife, Wendy Marshall Steele, remained onboard. She had been in telephone contact with her husband and said on Saturday that he was still feeling healthy.


“Alan is well, Japanese doctors are excellent,” she posted on Facebook. “He is in a little room. Just doctor and nurse visit him.” She said she was also doing well but had “cabin fever” as she continued to be confined to her room on the ship.

There are nearly 3,700 other passengers and crew being quarantined on the ship. They have been offered access to mental health counselling and enhanced internet access.

In a video posted on Twitter, Rai Caluori, the executive vice-president at Princess Cruises, said: “We recognise that a situation like this can create unprecedented stress, so we’re also offering our guests and crew specialised telephonic mental health counselling if they should be experiencing such stress and mental health issues.”

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