An indigenous woman who lives in a village in the Amazon rainforest region contracted the new coronavirus, the first case reported among more than 300 indigenous communities in Brazil, the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai) said on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old indigenous cocama was diagnosed with the virus in the municipality of Santo Antônio do Içá, located near the border with Colombia and about 880 kilometers from the capital Manaus.
“Unfortunately, we have an indigenous woman with the virus,” said the Sesai spokeswoman by phone.
The patient, whose name has not been released, is a medical assistant who visited several villages along the river and also the city of Tabatinga and returned home with a fever, irritated throat, and chest pain, according to O Globo.
Four cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the same municipality, including a Brazilian doctor who was diagnosed last week, which sparked fears that the epidemic would spread to remote and vulnerable indigenous communities and cause devastating effects.
The doctor, whose name was not disclosed, returned from a vacation in southern Brazil to work with the Ticuna, who is one of the largest Amazonian ethnic groups with more than 30,000 indigenous people and lives in the northern Amazon, close to the borders with Colombia and Peru.
Health experts warn that the virus could be lethal to the 850,000 indigenous people in Brazil, who have been decimated over the centuries by diseases brought by Europeans, such as measles, malaria, and flu.
Experts say the lifestyle of the indigenous people, who live in community villages, with straw-framed houses, increases the risk of contagion if a single member contracts the virus, which causes the sometimes fatal respiratory disease known as COVID-19.