A 65-year-old man infected with a new SARS-like virus died of multiple organ failure on Monday in France.
He was the first French patient to die from the condition, which is known as Middle East Respiratory Symptom Coronavirus, or MERS-CoV. As of Wednesday, 49 people have been infected with the virus since September; of those, 27 have died.
The French man, who remains unidentified, was hospitalized in Lille last month, after returning from a vacation in Dubai, where it is believed he was infected. Another patient in France was in stable but very serious condition.
Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the United Nation's World Health Organization, called the virus a "threat to the entire world" on Monday at the annual World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
"It is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself," she said. "We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond."
Part of what worries global health officials about MERS-CoV is how rapidly it seems to be spreading around the globe. Most of the confirmed cases of the virus have originated in Saudi Arabia, but cases have also been reported in France, Germany, Qatar, Jordan, and Britain.