Argentinian health officials are struggling to understand how almost all of the ship’s crew who spent 35 days at sea were found to have contracted a coronavirus when they returned to shore.
The 61 sailors aboard the trawler, Echizen Maru, negative test for the virus from Buenos Aires at the end of May.
They were then flown to Ushuaia, a typical hopping point for Antarctic travel dubbed “the end of the world,” where they were quarantined in a hotel for two weeks before setting sail.
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After weeks at sea, some crew members began to show symptoms typical of Covid-19, and the ship returned to port.
All but four aboard the ship tested positive upon return, local health officials in Tierra del Fuego province said on Monday. Two were hospitalized at Ushuaia Regional Hospital, one of whom is receiving oxygen.
Now the authorities are struggling to understand how the disease reached the isolated vessel.
“It is difficult to establish how this crew was infected, given that for 35 days, they had no contact with dry land,” Alejandra Alfaro, director of care, told Agence France-Presse. primary health care in Tierra del Fuego. “The supplies were only brought in from the port of Ushuaia. ”
« [The virus] entered somewhere. We have to think it was human contact or contact with goods, products, supplies, “said Alfaro to local media on Monday.
“We know that for 35 days, no one or any new entry went on the ship. Obviously something happened, there may have been some contagion inside the boat which was not recorded. ”
Alfaro added that the epidemic may have been exacerbated by the resistance and acclimatization of fishermen to difficult conditions, in the sense that they may have spent a lot of time in discomfort without acknowledging or acknowledging the symptoms.
It is also possible that the two-week quarantine period was insufficient, several studies have suggested that in rare cases – about one in 100 – the incubation period may extend beyond 14 days.
But given the time before symptoms were reported on board, the hospital’s infectious disease manager, Leandro Ballatore, told AFP he thought it was a “case which escapes any description in the publications, for such a long incubation period has not been described anywhere ”. .
In a statement, local health minister Judit Di Giglio said that by Wednesday authorities will have the results of the tests, “which will allow us to know how many antibodies patients need to know if the infection is newer or older ”.
Argentina has so far identified more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus, with an official death toll of nearly 2,000.