JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's health minister on Thursday confirmed the nation's first case of the novel coronavirus, in a 38-year-old man who had recently traveled to Italy.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the patient, from the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, had travelled to Italy with his wife. They were, he said in a statement, part of a group of 10 people who returned to South Africa on March 1.
“The patient consulted a private general practitioner on March 3, with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough,” the minister said. “The practice nurse took swabs and delivered it to the lab. The patient has been self-isolating since March 3. The couple also has two children. The Emergency Operating Center has identified the contacts by interviewing the patient and doctor. The tracer team has been deployed to KwaZulu-Natal with epidemiologists and clinicians from NICD. The doctor has been self-isolated as well.”
The World Health Organization says more than 93,000 people have been infected worldwide since the beginning of the outbreak in late 2019. Of those cases, more than 3,000 people have died -- the vast majority of them in China.
South Africa has identified 13 hospitals equipped to treat patients, and has implemented screening at the continent’s busiest airport, in Johannesburg.
In a statement, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases hailed the news as a "success" of South Africa's surveillance system, and assured South Africans that the situation was being handled.
“This is not as a failure but as a success of our health systems to be able to detect and rapidly identify cases,” the Institute said in a statement. “The case has been self-isolated at home since the onset of symptoms and is receiving treatment.”