Coronavirus live updates: American tourist becomes first confirmed case in Bhutan

(NEW YORK) — More than 95,000 people around the world have been infected by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and more than 3,200 of them have died.

The newly identified virus was first detected back in December in Wuhan, China, which remains the epicenter of the global outbreak. The virus, known officially as COVID-19, has since spread to every continent except Antarctica and the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global health emergency. South Korea, Italy and Iran have the highest national totals of confirmed cases behind China, respectively.

In the United States, at least 129 cases have been confirmed and 12 people have died.

Here’s the latest on the developing situation. All times Eastern:

3:30 a.m. American tourist becomes first case in Bhutan

An American tourist in Bhutan has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus as the first confirmed case in the South Asian country, situated on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, prompting officials there to temporarily ban all incoming tourists and shutter schools in three regions.

Bhutan’s Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet announced the case in a press release early Friday morning, saying the patient is a 76-year-old U.S. citizen who had entered the country via a flight from India on Monday.

The man left Washington, D.C., on Feb. 18 and toured India from Feb. 21 to March 1. He was traveling with his 58-year-old partner, according to Bhutan’s Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Upon arriving at Bhutan’s Paro International Airport, officials assessed the man’s health declaration form, on which he had indicated “negative” against all conditions. He did not show any signs of fever, officials said.

However, upon reaching the capital, Thimphu, later that afternoon, the man went to a hospital complaining of bloat and nausea. He suffers from chronic hypertension and is on medication. At that time, he did not have any flu-like symptoms, officials said.

On Wednesday, the man traveled to Punakha, a town in the Himalayas of Bhutan, where he stayed at Densa Boutique Resort. Upon returning to Thimphu on Thursday, he went back to the hospital again and was found to have a fever, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath. He was kept under observation at the flu clinic, which has become a designated coronavirus hospital, and samples were collected and sent to Bhutan’s Royal Center for Disease Control for testing, officials said.

The test results came back positive for COVID-19 late Thursday night and were validated early Friday morning. Since then, he has been isolated in the coronavirus hospital.

By Friday morning, health officials have traced more than 90 people who had come in contact with the American tourist in Bhutan.

In response to the detection of COVID-19 in the country, the government of Bhutan has ordered the closure of schools and institutions in three regions and has banned public gatherings in the affected localities.

The government has also imposed a two-week restriction on all incoming tourists, effective immediately.

“This is to enable rigorous monitoring, source assessment of infection and mitigate the situation,” Bhutan’s Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet said in a statement Friday. “The government will assess the situation after two weeks and accordingly decide on the restrictions.”

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