The deadly coronavirus that was completely unknown to the world just three months ago has now reached every continent besides Antarctica.
Brazilian authorities on Wednesday confirmed Latin America’s first case after a 61-year-old man who had just returned from Italy tested positive for the mysterious disease.
The patient was in northern Italy for work from Feb. 9 to 21 — the same period that country saw an explosion of new cases and became the largest concentration of infections outside Asia. As of Wednesday, Italian authorities have confirmed 323 cases and 11 deaths.
The diagnosis comes during Brazil’s week-long carnival holiday, which draws millions of tourists to some of its major cities for parades and block parties.
Brazilian health officials said the patient experienced fever, dry cough and sore throat about two days after returning from his trip. He is reportedly doing well but has been isolated at a hospital in S\u00e3o Paulo as a precaution, the country’s health minister told reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning.
The pneumonia-like disease, known as COVID-19, has infected more than 80,000 people and killed over 2,700 others across more than 30 countries, with the vast majority of cases occurring in central China’s Hubei province, where the virus was first discovered in late December.
Outside mainland China, the largest outbreaks are in Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea, all of which have confirmed more than 100 cases and multiple deaths.
Besides Brazil, Greece also reported its first case of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The patient is a 38-year-old woman who had also traveled to northern Italy this month.
The sudden increase in Europe and the Middle East have sent officials scrambling to prevent a potential pandemic by shutting down major tourist sites and canceling multiple sports events. Even the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which are five months away, may be postponed or canceled altogether.
The growing crisis has also sparked a stock-market selloff as investors fear a potential pandemic could hurt the global economy.’
In the U.S., where a public health emergency was declared weeks ago, 53 people are recovering from the illness and no deaths have been reported. Thirty-nine of those patients are repatriated U.S. citizens and residents who were flown from China and Japan earlier this month.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged schools, hospitals and businesses to start preparing for an outbreak in this country — which is now a question of when, not if, CDC officials said Tuesday. President Trump was expected to discuss the coronavirus threat during a White House news conference Wednesday.
The Department of State, meanwhile, has issued a Level-2 travel advisory for Italy because of the increased risk from the highly contagious infection. The agency also issued a Level-4 alert Wednesday urging Americans not to travel to Iran because of the ongoing outbreak as well as the risk of kidnapping and the arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens.
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