Written by Jean de Lafourguette, CNN

A 71-year-old man from central France died from coronavirus on February 12, bringing to 900 the number of French people who have died since the virus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2015.

The man was admitted to a hospital in Arpajon, near Lyon, with a chronic cough on December 16 and his condition was deteriorating rapidly, health officials said in a statement Wednesday.

However, officials later noted that the man, whose name and age have not been released, had not had any recent contact with bats or wild animals and his lungs were tested as part of the investigation into his respiratory illness.

It is the second known case of the SARS-like virus in France, though no people have contracted the disease in the country yet.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus has infected more than 1,000 people worldwide, killing at least 850 since it emerged in Saudi Arabia.

Coronaviruses can spread between animals (like camels and deer) and humans by respiratory secretions. Most have similar symptoms to the common cold, though severe cases of illness can involve fever, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath.

The coronavirus has only been identified in four cases so far in France: two in 2011 and another in 2015, both in patients with a history of recent respiratory illnesses.

The death of the 71-year-old is the second this year related to the virus in France. In January, an 80-year-old man died from coronavirus in Rennes after spending time in Arpajon. The three-month-old infant born to that patient is receiving hospital care.

In a statement on Wednesday, the French health minister, Agnès Buzyn, called the disease "extremely contagious" and a potential threat to the entire world.

"With the rapid spread of coronavirus, it's imperative that countries, along with partners, collectively understand its risks and create mechanisms to assess them," Buzyn said.

The Netherlands, where an eight-year-old girl also died of coronavirus in December, was the first European country to directly report a case of the disease in the country, according to the WHO.

Since the World Health Organization first identified the coronavirus in September 2014, the WHO has recommended the vaccination of camels, horses and people in countries with high levels of risk of infection with the virus.