Virus spreads to South America, latest case in Brazil

Sao Paulo International Airport employees wear masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. (AP pic)

SAO PAULO: Brazil’s health ministry said on Wednesday a Sao Paulo resident has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, the first such case recorded in Latin America.

The 61-year-old patient had returned on Feb 21 from the Lombardy region of Italy, the epicentre of an outbreak in the European country, Brazil’s Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said.

Mandetta said authorities were trying to identify people who had been in contact with the patient as well as his family members.

The man had visited a doctor complaining of flu symptoms. He has been placed in home isolation but is said to be “fine.”

Sao Paulo is Brazil’s largest city with 12 million inhabitants.

Another 20 cases are under investigation, said health ministry official Wanderson Kleber de Oliveira.

Twelve of those had travelled to Italy while one was in China, the origin of the outbreak.

Before confirming the case, Mandetta had spoken to CBN radio station downplaying the virus as a simple “flu.”

“We need to stay calm, it’s a flu and we’ll overcome it,” he said.

However, he added that it was a virus that appeared in a northern hemisphere winter and there was no way to predict how it would react to a southern hemisphere summer.

“It could be better, or worse,” he said.

Coronavirus has killed over 2,700 people and infected more than 80,000, the vast majority in China.