The patient was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist from Hubei province, the epicenter of the new virus, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told reporters in Paris.
The male patient was hospitalized on Jan. 25 “under strict isolation measures.”
“His condition deteriorated rapidly, he was in a critical state for several days and he was in intensive care,” Buzyn said. “This is the first death from the coronavirus outside of Asia, the first death in Europe.”
Most of the cases of COVID-19, the new virus, have occurred in China, where the virus emerged in December 2019, along with most of the deaths. Previous deaths have been reported by the Philippines and Japan. Another death occurred in Hong Kong.
Thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of cases were reported by Chinese authorities but experts widely believe the true numbers are higher.
France has 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Five are British nationals who became infected while at a ski chalet. Person-to-person transmission was thought to have taken place from another Briton who had traveled to a business conference in Singapore. Another patient who tested positive was the Chinese tourist’s daughter, Buzyn told reporters, according to The Local.
The daughter’s condition is improving and authorities believe she will be discharged from the hospital soon.
“Our health system must be prepared to face a possible virus spreading across the country,” Buzyn said, adding that she would meet with health authorities on Tuesday to discuss the new virus.
The World Health Organization on Friday said it confirmed the first COVID-19 case in Africa. The patient tested positive in Egypt.
There are also confirmed cases in the Middle East, Oceania, and the Americas in addition to Asia and Africa. Over two dozen countries have reported cases of the virus.
The largest outbreak outside of China is in Japan, where the Diamond Princess cruise ship has been under quarantine since earlier this month. Nearly 300 cases, most of them passengers from the ship, have been confirmed in the country. Singapore has the second-highest total, with 58 as of Friday.
In Europe, Germany has the most confirmed cases with 15, followed by France. The United Kingdom has nine cases, Italy has three, and Russia and Spain have two each. Belgium, Finland, and Sweden have each had one patient test positive.
Coronaviruses circulate among animals and in rare cases infect people and then spread between people. Other examples are MERS and SARS.
The person-to-person spread happens most often among close contacts, or within about six feet, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or be inhaled into the lungs.
Some transmission is occurring through people touching a contaminated surface or object and through asymptomatic transmission, or spread from people who are sick but do not show symptoms.