The Brazilian Health Ministry’s Secretaria Especial de Saúde Indígena (SESAI) announced Wednesday that a 20-year-old woman of the Kokama tribe tested positive for the novel coronavirus, reported Telesur English.
The Kokama tribe is one of largest indigenous tribes in the Amazon, comprising over 30,000 individuals who inhabit land near the borders of both Peru and Colombia.
The unnamed woman, whose diagnosis makes her the first indigenous Brazilian COVID-19 case, is a medical worker and came in contact with a doctor who was one of four novel coronavirus cases confirmed in the district of Santo Antonio do Içá.
SESAI explained that the woman was the only individual out of 15 health workers to test positive for the novel coronavirus. However, a total of 12 patients tested after contact with the doctor were diagnosed with COVID-19. The indigenous branch of the health ministry also noted that the woman has been isolated with her family and did not show COVID-19 symptoms.
Regional health officials fear that the novel coronavirus has the ability to quickly spread and become lethal for Brazil’s estimated 850,000 indigenous people.
"There is a high risk that the virus will spread through communities and cause genocide," Sofia Mendonça, a researcher at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, told BBC Brasil late last month, according to a translation by Telesur English.
In addition to Brazil, it was reported by local authorities on Tuesday that Colombia had also identified its first coronavirus cases among its indigenous community.
Citing the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), Reuters reported that two individuals of the Yukpa group were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19. Experts told the outlet that the virus is likely to spread quickly among the community due to their weakened immune systems from malnutrition, tuberculosis, hepatitis B and other ailments.
“We are very concerned,” ONIC press officer Maricela Londono told the outlet. “It puts everyone at grave risk.”