Italy's health ministry has confirmed the country's first case of a new respiratory virus that is alarming global health officials.

The patient is a 45-year-old man recently back from a 40-day visit to Jordan. The ministry said he was in good condition and being treated for the coronavirus in a hospital in Tuscany.

The virus is related to SARS, which killed about 800 people in a 2003 global epidemic. The UN health agency says it has been informed of 51 confirmed cases of the new virus since September.

Thirty of those cases were fatal, including that of a Frenchman who died earlier in the week. Cases in Britain and Germany also have been reported.

Most of those infected had travelled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan.

Last week the World Health Organisation said the  new Sars-like respiratory illness is a "threat to the entire world".

Experts raised concerns that the disease is "emerging faster than our understanding".

WHO's director general said that the novel virus, which has been called Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus - or MERS-CoV, is her "greatest concern".

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