A 61-year-old man from São Paulo who returned recently from a business trip to Italy has tested positive for the coronavirus, Brazilian health officials said on Wednesday, confirming the first known case in Latin America.
Officials were scrambling on Wednesday to track down the other passengers on the flight the man took to Brazil and to find others who had contact with him in recent days. The diagnosis was announced by the health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who added that Brazil was investigating 20 additional cases, including 12 patients who recently traveled to Italy.
The man was said to have traveled to northern Italy from Feb. 9-21. Although the virus originated in China, there has been a surge of cases in Italy, most notably in the northern region of Lombardy, and the illness has now spread to several countries in Europe.
As the virus spread briskly across China and neighboring countries in recent weeks, killing thousands of people, and began to take a toll in Europe, Latin America was spared.
But health officials in the region have been on high alert, anticipating that it was only a matter of time before the virus arrived. “It’s a global world,” Mr. Mandetta said. “It’s an interconnected world.”