Three people in Italy are the latest to be treated for a new illness caused by a coronavirus which is alarming global health officials, the country's health ministry has said.

A 45-year-old man who had recently returned from a 40-day visit to Jordan was hospitalised in Tuscany on Saturday with a high fever, cough and respiratory problems, the ministry said.

A 2-year-old girl related to the man, and a female colleague have also contracted the respiratory virus, the ministry said citing regional officials.

All three patients were reported to be in good condition and were being treated in isolation.

"At the moment, the situation is under control," Italian Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said.

"The conditions of the people involved are being monitored, and even the baby is getting better," she said.

The illness is caused by the coronavirus that is known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

The virus is related to SARS, which killed about 800 people in a global epidemic in 2003. The UN health agency said earlier on Saturday that it had 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 this week and 24 Saudi nationals. Cases in Britain and Germany also have been reported.

Most of those infected had traveled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tunisia, UAE or Pakistan. Isolated cases have been reported in Europe including Italy, France, Britain and Germany.

Source: Agencies