STOCKHOLM • Some 450 people were taken to hospital in a Spanish beach resort after being sickened by the virus thought to be the same as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, the European Health Organisation said yesterday.

A few people thought to have come into contact with the traveller who has been confirmed to have the coronavirus will also be hospitalised, the organisation said in a statement.

"In Tenerife, a hospital has received 450 people who are ill with fever, cough and respiratory illness, in most cases the illness is mild," the statement said.

The authorities in the Canary Islands are investigating how the guest got the virus, officials said in a televised briefing.

"Vigilance is being intensified on the island," the Canary Islands government said.

The French and British governments confirmed cases yesterday. In Paris, a 50-year-old Frenchman, who was in his room at the Royal Tulip hotel, told a TV station he had nothing to do with the outbreak.

In London, a 57-year-old who had just visited Saudi Arabia fell ill in Brighton.

In Tunisia, a woman living in Algiers who was visiting a friends' home in Gafsa was taken to hospital in Nias, 200km west of Tunis, as a precaution, said health officials.

The first case outside Saudi Arabia was confirmed last Saturday. It involved a Saudi expatriate who arrived on a Lufthansa flight in Munich last Tuesday.

He showed symptoms of flu-like conditions, but his family member, a young woman living in Germany, tested positive for the virus.

The WHO said the virus resembles the virus that causes MERS, with an increasing number of people becoming infected within close contact.

While the most severe infections have been reported in the Middle East, the virus has now spread to Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey, it said in a statement.

There are no vaccines or specific treatments.

"WHO has called for enhanced surveillance in affected countries and close cooperation between affected and unaffected countries," it said.

"WHO is working with partners to deploy additional teams of infection control experts in affected countries to support health care providers and establish observation centres."

An autopsy of the King Abdullah Medical City patient confirmed that he had been infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

The World Health Organisation said there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of MERS-CoV, but there is evidence of community-based transmission from camels to humans.

There have been more than 700 confirmed cases, including 60 deaths, since the infection was first identified in 2012.

The dead Saudi man was transferred from the hospital to a military hospital in Madrid. The plane with the French patient made an emergency landing in Nice and the British passenger was given antibiotics at a hospital in Grenoble, where he has a heart problem.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE