Speaking to BFM TV, he said he initially had a dry cough and fever and assumed he had the flu. However, when he started suffering chest pains and breathing difficulties, he drove to the hospital.

“They said: ‘Perhaps you have an infection, a pulmonary infection, although it’s not certain. But what you have is very serious, very serious, because you are coughing blood. It’s not normal flu,”‘ he said.

It is unclear how Mr Hammar, a fishmonger from Algeria who has asthma and diabetes, caught the virus as he has no direct links to China. One of his children had fallen ill with an unusual pneumonia shortly before him.

However, his wife works at a supermarket near Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport which is frequented by travellers.

“We’re wondering whether she was asymptomatic,’ said Dr Yves Cohen, the head of intensive care at the Avicenne hospital where Mr Hammar was treated. 

Mr Hammar’s wife said she thought it was likely she caught it from airline passengers. “We serve customers who come straight from the airport. They come with their suitcases, so it must be that,” she told BFM TV.

Mr Hammar, who lives in Bobigny, returned home after several days in hospital and has fully recovered. He had no idea he had been infected with the new virus until Dr Cohen contacted him in recent days and confirmed that he had tested “100 per cent positive”.

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