February 26, 2020 / 10:39 AM / a month ago

Brazil confirms first coronavirus case in Latin America: source

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Brazilian government test has confirmed the first case of a fast-spreading new coronavirus in Latin America, a source said on Wednesday, after a Sao Paulo hospital flagged the possible infection of a 61-year-old who had visited Italy.

The diagnosis comes during Brazil’s carnival holiday, a peak time for domestic travel when millions of revelers throng to major cities for raucous street celebrations.

Brazil’s Health Ministry declined to comment on the result of the test ahead of a news conference around 11 a.m. local time (1400 GMT). The person familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity because the results were not yet public.

The ministry said in a statement on Tuesday evening it was looking into the case of a Sao Paulo resident who had traveled to Lombardy, in northern Italy, from Feb. 9 to Feb. 21 and had symptoms compatible with the disease.

Italy has been hardest hit by the outbreak in Europe, with more than 350 cases reported and 11 deaths.

The Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo said that the man tested positive to a PCR real time test on Monday and it notified Sao Paulo state’s epidemiological agency on Tuesday.

He remains in good health and will be monitored in isolation for the next 14 days, the hospital said in a written statement.

Brazilian sanitary agency Anvisa said it had requested a list of the passengers on his same flight from Italy to Brazil.

Although the case in Sao Paulo is the first in Brazil to be confirmed as the new coronavirus, the country has been tracking suspected cases as travelers return from Asia and Europe.

The latest suspected case appeared in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, where a 51-year-old woman arrived this week from Italy with mild flu symptoms, according to the state health secretariat.

The new coronavirus is believed to have originated in a market selling wildlife in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China.

Concerns over the economic impact of the disease have wiped out more than $3 trillion of value on tumbling stock markets over the past four trading sessions.

Brazil’s stock market, which has been closed since last week due to the carnival holiday, is set to open at 1 p.m. local time on Wednesday. Brazilian shares in exchange-traded funds in New York have dropped nearly 6% this week.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle and Carolina Mandl; Editing by Brad Haynes, Gareth Jones and Nick Zieminski

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