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Mystery as 57 Argentine fishermen test positive for coronavirus despite spending 35 days at sea and testing negative before they left

  • Echizen Maru fishing vessel left port in Ushuaia, southern Argentina, 35 days ago
  • It returned after several sailors fell ill; 57 out of 61 are positive for coronavirus
  • Scientists are baffled because ship had no contact with land while it was gone 
  • Sailors all tested negative and had 14-day quarantine before voyage began 

By Afp

Published: | Updated:

Argentina is trying to solve a medical mystery after 57 sailors were infected with the coronavirus after 35 days at sea, despite the entire crew testing negative before leaving port.

The Echizen Maru fishing trawler returned to port after some of its crew began exhibiting symptoms typical of COVID-19, the health ministry for the southern Tierra del Fuego province said Monday.

According to the ministry, 57 sailors, out of 61 crew members, were diagnosed with the virus after undergoing a new test.

Doctors are trying to work out how 57 out of 61 sailors on board this fishing vessel caught coronavirus, after they spent 35 days at sea and tested negative before they left

Doctors are trying to work out how 57 out of 61 sailors on board this fishing vessel caught coronavirus, after they spent 35 days at sea and tested negative before they left

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Doctors are trying to work out how 57 out of 61 sailors on board this fishing vessel caught coronavirus, after they spent 35 days at sea and tested negative before they left

However, all of the crew members had undergone 14 days of mandatory quarantine at a hotel in the city of Ushuaia. 

Prior to that, they had negative results, the ministry said in a statement.

Two of the other sailors have tested negative, and two others are awaiting test results, the province’s emergency operations committee said.

Two sailors were hospitalized.

‘It’s hard to establish how this crew was infected, considering that for 35 days, they had no contact with dry land,’ said Alejandra Alfaro, the director of primary health care in Tierra del Fuego.

‘Supplies were only brought in from the port of Ushuaia.’

A team was examining ‘the chronology of symptoms in the crew to establish the chronology of contagion,’ she said.

Argentina now has more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus with 1,859 deaths from the disease (pictured, a mask-wearing woman in Buenos Aires)

Argentina now has more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus with 1,859 deaths from the disease (pictured, a mask-wearing woman in Buenos Aires)

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Argentina now has more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus with 1,859 deaths from the disease (pictured, a mask-wearing woman in Buenos Aires)

The head of the infectious diseases department at Ushuaia Regional Hospital, Leandro Ballatore, said he believed this is a ‘case that escapes all description in publications, because an incubation period this long has not been described anywhere.’

‘We cannot yet explain how the symptoms appeared,’ said Ballatore.

The crew was placed in isolation on board the ship and returned to the port of Ushuaia.

Argentina exceeded 100,000 total cases on Sunday, and the death toll rose to 1,859. The majority of infections are in the Buenos Aires area.

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