New Zealand’s First Coronavirus Patient a National Who Traveled to Iran

February 28, 2020 Updated: February 28, 2020
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New Zealand authorities said the country’s first confirmed case of the new coronavirus is a citizen who traveled to Iran recently before returning home.

The patient tested positive after twice testing negative for the new COVID-19 disease, which is caused by the virus, officials said. After arriving back in New Zealand, the patient traveled home in a private car and called health authorities after developing symptoms.

The virus has symptoms similar to those for the flu, including fever, headache, and respiratory issues.

The patient is a man or woman in their 60s who recently returned from Iran, the New Zealand Ministry of Health said in a statement earlier Friday. They’re being treated in Auckland City Hospital in a negative pressure room to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The person’s household contacts are in isolation as a precaution. The patient’s family members will be offered testing for the virus, New Zealand Director-General Dr. Ashley Bloomfield told reporters.

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Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, director-general of New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, speaks at a press conference in Auckland, New Zealand on Feb. 5, 2020. (Michael Ng/Getty Images)

Authorities are working on identifying who the patient came into contact with, including on the flight they took home, which originated in Tehran and stopped in Bali, Indonesia.

Anyone who was on the final leg of the flight, Emirates EK450 arriving Auckland on Feb. 26, and is concerned was told to contact Healthline.

The person was wearing a mask on both flights, Bloomfield said at the press conference, lowering the chances that they infected other people.

The patient “is in a condition that’s improving,” Clark said. That fact is one sign that New Zealand won’t experience an outbreak of the virus, he added.

“It is likely that from time to time we may get further cases, but it is very unlikely that we’ll get a sustained community outbreak if people take the necessary precautions,” Clark said.

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Iranian women wear protective masks to prevent contracting coronavirus, as they walk in the street in Tehran, Iran on Feb. 25, 2020. (Nazanin Tabatabaee/West Asia News Agency via Reuters)

Community spread of the virus has appeared in multiple countries in recent days, including Italy, South Korea, and Iran. Other countries have confirmed new cases after the patients traveled to areas with outbreaks, bringing the infection back with them.

Because of the newly confirmed case, New Zealand is bolstering measures at airports, including giving everyone who is arriving from outside the country information about what to do if they are unwell or if they become unwell, Bloomfield said at the press conference.

The Ministry of Health’s export advisory group also revised the case definition by adding Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand as countries or territories of a higher level of interest when diagnosing patients.

Anyone who has visited those countries in the previous 14 days who develops symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath should contact the authorities.

Some 24 cases have been exported from Italy to 14 countries, World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva on Friday. Nearly 100 cases have been exported from Iran to 11 countries, he said.

The virus emerged in China late last year and has spread to dozens of countries over the past few months. The origins of the virus aren’t known. Coronaviruses typically circulate in animals but can, in rare cases, jump to humans before passing from person-to-person.

There is no known vaccine and no proven existing treatments. Some patients have recovered.

Avoiding infection can include frequently washing hands, especially before eating, and avoiding sick people.

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