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WHO Issues Warning Over SARS-Like Virus

French Social Affairs and Health Minister Marisol Touraine (front) leaves Roger Salengro hospital where the patient with confirmed case of the SARS-like coronavirus is being treated, in Lille, France, May 11, 2013.
A new coronavirus that has killed 18 people since last year could be passed between people in close contact, according to the World Health Organization.

Speaking from Saudi Arabia, WHO Assistant Director General Keiji Fukda said Sunday that he’s concerned about person to person tranmission.

"Of most concern, however, is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact, this novel coronavirus can transmit from person to person," he said.

His comments came after the French Health Ministry confirmed Sunday that a second person in France had been diagnosed with the new respiratory virus. The man, who’s in his fifties, had previously shared a hospital room with another patient suffering from the virus - in what seems to be a human-to-human transmission.

The Health Ministry said the two were in prolonged and close contact.

Marisol Touraine, France's health minister, said the first patient infected by coronavirus is in a stable, but worrying, situation. The health of the second patient has deteriorated and he has been transferred to intensive care.

Both men now are in isolation, and authorities say they’re in the process of identifying all those who have been in contact with the second patient.

This new coronavirus was first discovered last year and has killed about 20 people. Cases have emerged in a number of Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar, and also in Europe.

Another coronavirus, widely known by its acronym SARS, killed nearly 800 people in 2003. It originated in Asia, but turned into a global epidemic.

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