(Updates with Health Ministry confirmation, adds background)
BUENOS AIRES, March 3 (Reuters) - Argentina Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia on Tuesday confirmed the South American country’s first case of the fast-spreading new coronavirus.
The patient, a 43-year-old man, arrived in Argentina on March 1 after a two-week trip that included northern Italy, another health ministry official said. Northern Italy is grappling with one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the respiratory illness outside of China.
Health Access Secretary Carla Vizzotti said Argentina is still in the containment stage in dealing with the virus. “Containment means that we will work on the early detection of possible cases, confirming or ruling them out.”
The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in South America was reported in Brazil on Feb. 26.
The illness, called COVID-19, first emerged in central China late last year. It has now spread to nearly 80 countries including Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, with the worst outbreaks outside of China in South Korea, Iran and Italy. (Reporting by Marina Lammertyn and Hugh BronStein; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Bill Berkrot)