Brazil Confirms First Case of COVID-19 in Latin America

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FEBRUARY 26, 2020 -- The Brazilian Ministry of Health confirmed the country's first case of COVID-19 today. It is a man from São Paulo who came back recently from a working trip to Italy, where so far 374 cases of the novel coronavirus — officially called the SARS-CoV2 infection (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2) — have been recorded.

The Ministry of Health announced in a press conference that the confirmation turned Brazil into the first Latin American country with the disease, and reported that another 20 suspected cases are being investigated in seven states in the country. To date, 59 other suspected cases have been ruled out.

The first positive test was done in Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, in São Paulo, on Tuesday. According to the ministry, the hospital "adopted all preventive measures for transmission by droplets, collected samples and performed tests for common respiratory viruses and the specific exam for SARS-CoV2 (RT-PCR, using the Charité protocol), as recommended by the World Health Organization."

After the positive result, the hospital sent samples to the Adolfo Lutz Institute for another test that confirmed the positive diagnosis.

The patient, a 61-year-old man who lives in the capital of São Paulo, decided to seek medical assistance after feeling symptoms (fever, dry cough, sore throat, and runny nose) compatible with COVID-19.

The patient "is fine, with mild signs of infection, received the standard precautionary guidelines [treatment], and is in isolation at his home, being monitored daily," a ministry official said.

During the press conference, Brazilian Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, MD, stated that the ministry is already taking proactive steps for different scenarios, including the purchase of drugs and supplies (masks and protective equipment) and the rental of ventilatory support machines upon demand.

The minister ruled out restrictive actions at airports and borders and stressed the importance of prevention measures to reduce the chance of SARS-CoV2 transmission.

"It is just another flu that we, as humankind, will have to face. As it happens with all viruses, the best control measure is correct information," he said.

The ministry stated that the municipal and state health authorities in São Paulo are already identifying and monitoring 30 family members who had contact with the patient, as well as passengers on the flight that brought him from Italy to Brazil.

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