First case of coronavirus confirmed in Catalonia

First diagnosis, also first of Iberian Peninsula, is of woman who had recently traveled to northern Italy

Picture of a mask in Farmàcia Noguera, in Girona, on February 24, 2020 (by Eli Don)
Picture of a mask in Farmàcia Noguera, in Girona, on February 24, 2020 (by Eli Don) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 25, 2020 03:44 PM

The first case of the highly contagious coronavirus has been confirmed in Catalonia after weeks of speculation as to whether the epidemic would spread to the area as well as the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress to avoid contagion.  

The first diagnosis in Catalonia, which is also the first in the Iberian Peninsula, is that of a 36-year-old Italian woman who resides in Barcelona but had traveled to the Bergamo and Milan area of northern Italy between February 12 and 22 before testing positive in the Catalan capital on Tuesday.

The woman contacted Hospital Clínic on Monday night to report her symptoms before receiving her diagnosis a day later, the Catalan health department explained. 

Describing her symptoms as "mild," health department secretary Joan Guix said the woman is not likely to have any further complications as the disease is more dangerous for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions. 

Authorities are also currently identifying all the people she has been in contact with and will have them remain in quarantine at home for 2 weeks.

These are thought to be some 25 people - although numbers could increase - who are currently healthy but will be isolated to prevent the possible spread of the disease.

Mireia Jané, the Deputy Director of Public Health Survey and Response, stated on Tuesday evening that authorities were "still carrying out tests to identify all the other contacts."

There are another 7 or 8 people who are being tested for the virus in Catalonia and 11 others who have already tested negative. 

Public health system "ready"

"We believe we will be able to contain the cases," said Dr. Assumpta Ricard, who manages Catalan Health Service's integral health processes.

On Monday, Catalan health minister Alba Vergés maintained that the health service remains alert and "ready," and another meeting on coronavirus protocols with various health authorities from around Spain was held Tuesday afternoon.

Hours later, Spain's health minister, Salvador Illa, recommended not travelling to coronavirus risk areas including northern Italy

Last week, Italy saw a major outbreak of the virus, with thousands of citizens in lockdown. 

The deadly disease has already claimed over 1,000 lives in China.

The Catalan health department has asked that people that suspect they could have the coronavirus call the emergency number, 061, for more information rather than go to the emergency room.