A 49-year-old Chinese man is being held in isolation in Quito as doctors determine if he is Ecuador’s first official case of the coronavirus. According to the Ministry of Health, the resident of Fujian, China arrived in Ecuador from Hong Kong January 21 showing no symptoms of the disease.
“The infected man is now suffering from a severe cough, renal and respiratory failure and has a fever of 39.5 (103 F), so we are taking all necessary precautions in his treatment,” a spokeswoman for the health ministry said Sunday night. She added that the ministry is attempting to identify people who interacted with the man from the time of his arrival at the Quito airport and the time he was admitted to the hospital. She added that test results on the patient will be known within 72 hours.
According to the health ministry, Ecuador’s National Influenza Research Center and the Public Health Research Institute went on high alert last week as the coronavirus spread. “We are prepared to provide testing results on the coronavirus as well as other influenza viruses as quickly as possible as the need arises,” said Maria Iglesias of the health institute. “If we suffer an outbreak in Ecuador, quick research results will be essential.”
According to Iglesias, there is considerable confusion about the extent of coronavirus infection both in China, where it is believed to have originated, as well as in other countries. “As of now, all we can do is be prepared as we await more information,” she said. Officially, China says it has confirmed 2,900 cases of the virus and 87 fatalities but others say the numbers are far higher. On Sunday, an anonymous Chinese nurse said that there are at least 90,000 cases and hundreds of deaths in Fujian. Hours after her first social media post, the nurse updated her estimate of infections to 150,000.