French health officials are screening dozens of people who have come into contact with two carriers of the SARS-like coronavirus.
One of them, a 65-year-old man who had been in Dubai, has died in hospital in the northern city of Lille. He was the first confirmed case in France.
Doctors are treating a second man. The two patients previously shared a room.
The World Health Organisation says 44 people worldwide have now contracted the disease and 23 have died.
So far, there is little evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.
However, the virus has spread from the Gulf to France, Britain and Germany, prompting concerns about clustering.
France’s health minister Marisol Touraine wants people to stay calm.
Apart from these cases, she told reporters, no others have been identified. Officials and health authorities are being vigilant but there is no need to be anxious, she said.
The dead man is thought to have contracted the virus on a trip to Dubai in April.
The virus first appeared in the Gulf state at the end of last year.
33 cases, of which 17 were fatal, have been recorded in the country.