TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian authorities confirmed on Wednesday two cases of the new coronavirus, the first in the country, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
The report did not elaborate on the nationality of the two people infected. ISNA quoted an official in the country’s health ministry, Kiyanoush Jahanpour, as saying that “since last two days, some suspected cases of the new coronavirus were found.”
Jahanpour did not say how many people were suspected of having the virus, which causes the illness that the World Health Organization recently named COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it.
He said the two confirmed cases were detected in the central province of Qom.
The new virus emerged in China in December. Since then, more than 70,000 people have been infected globally, with more than 2,000 deaths being reported, mostly in China.
The new virus comes from a large family of what are known as coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a cold. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal.
First detected in China, the virus is believed to have originated in a type of wild animal sold at a Chinese market to be consumed as food. Iran has applied safety measure on arrival flights at its airports to control a possible spread of the virus.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, nine cases have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, all involving Chinese nationals, while Egypt’s Health Ministry confirmed its first case last Friday.
Egypt’s Health Ministry identified its sole case only as a foreigner who is carrying the virus but not showing any serious symptoms. The ministry said the person was hospitalized and in isolation. It did not specify the person’s nationality or what port of entry he or she arrived at in Egypt.
The case in Egypt was also the first on the African continent. Experts and African leaders have expressed concern that should the virus spread there, it might wreak havoc among less developed countries with fewer health resources.