BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Health Ministry on Wednesday confirmed the first case of a fast-spreading new coronavirus in Latin America, diagnosing a 61-year-old man in Sao Paulo who returned recently from 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.
The patient, a Sao Paulo resident, had traveled to Lombardy, in northern Italy, from Feb. 9 to Feb. 21 and had symptoms compatible with the disease, the ministry said in a statement.
Italy has been hardest hit by the outbreak in Europe, with more than 350 cases reported and 11 deaths.
The first Brazilian patient remains in good health and will be monitored in isolation for the next 14 days, the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo 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.
Brazil’s Health Ministry is tracking 20 suspected cases of the new coronavirus, officials said, as travelers return from Asia and Europe.
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 (1600 GMT) on Wednesday. Brazilian shares in exchange-traded funds in New York have dropped nearly 6% this week.
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