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World & Nation

Mexico confirms its first case of new coronavirus

Mexican authorities have been warning for weeks that the arrival of the coronavirus was inevitable.
Mexican authorities have been warning for weeks that the arrival of the coronavirus was inevitable.
(Health Protection Agency / Associated Press )

Mexican authorities on Friday confirmed the country’s first case of the new coronavirus — a 35-year-old man who recently traveled to Italy and has displayed “minor” symptoms, officials said.

The man, who was not identified, was being held in isolation at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Mexico City after tests confirmed that he had contracted the virus, health authorities said.

Another potential patient in Mexico, a 41-year-old man who also recently traveled to Italy, was in isolation at a hotel in the northwest state of Sinaloa, officials said. But one additional test was pending to confirm the diagnosis, federal authorities said. Quirino Ordaz, the governor of Sinaloa state, said on Twitter that the man had been confirmed as having the virus, but there was no immediate public confirmation from Mexico’s federal health secretariat.

Officials emphasized that the matter was under control and urged Mexicans not to panic.

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“We are prepared to confront this situation of coronavirus,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Friday at his regular morning news conference. “We have the doctors, the specialists, the hospitals, the capacity to face this.”

The announcement comes two days after the first confirmed case of the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, in Latin America — a 61-year-old man in Brazil who had also recently returned from a trip to Italy.

Italy is experiencing a major outbreak of the virus, which originated in China and has quickly spread to more than 50 other nations.

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In Mexico, five people who had contact with the man confirmed to be infected were “under analysis,” Dr. Hugo López-Gatell, the country’s subsecretary of health, told reporters. Members of the man’s family were being kept in isolation, the official said.

The infected man, a resident of Mexico City, traveled to Italy between Feb. 14 and Feb. 22, authorities said.

Officials here vowed regular updates, and López Obrador called on the media not to exaggerate the matter and create “a collective psychosis of fear.”

Over 3,000 medical workers on the coronavirus frontlines have been infected with the virus, and at least 18 have died. The government calls them martyrs.

Authorities urged people to take basic precautions, such as washing their hands and covering their faces while sneezing.

For weeks, authorities have been warning Mexicans that the arrival of the virus in their country was inevitable, given the volume of international travel it sees and the fast spread of the virus around the world. Officials said that more than 20 suspected cases have been investigated in Mexico and found to be negative for the virus.

The federal health ministry has said that it is engaged in “permanent monitoring” and prepared for any potential treatment or isolation of patients.

López Obrador has vowed a swift response to any potential outbreak, and pledged that there would be no repeat of 2009, when swine flu broke out in Mexico. Critics accused the Mexican government of responding too slowly to that outbreak, allowing the swine flu to spread rapidly to other countries and become a pandemic.

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The 2009 swine flu spread to the United States and other countries, taking more than 150,000 lives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Special correspondent Cecilia Sánchez contributed to this report.


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