Health officials in Bulgaria and Moldova have confirmed the first cases of the coronavirus in those countries.
In Bulgaria, a man in his 20s and a woman in her 70s have been confirmed to have the disease in a country that is already struggling to contain a flu outbreak.
Chief state health inspector Angel Kunchev said early on March 8 that the two apparently had not traveled anywhere or come into contact with anyone who had returned from a country with a coronavirus outbreak.
Todor Kantardzhiev, director of the National Center of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, told reporters that “samples from two patients — a man from the northern town of Pleven and a woman from the central town of Gabrovo — tested positive.”
He said the 27-year-old man and the 75-year-old woman were tested for the infection as a preventive measure after being hospitalized several days ago with severe respiratory problems.
Health officials said they have identified and begun testing those who had been in contact with the two, about 40 people in total.
Bulgaria is already battling an influenza epidemic, with hospitals full of flu patients.
The government has declared a nationwide influenza epidemic and closed all schools from March 6-11.
Authorities in Moldova, meanwhile, have reported that country’s first confirmed case of coronavirus.
The Health Ministry said late on March 7 that a 48-year-old woman tested positive in Chisinau after being hospitalized upon arriving from Italy.
Italy is one of the countries hardest hit by the epidemic.
“The person was taken from the airport…with bilateral pneumonia, acute respiratory failure, fever, cough, and general weakness,” the ministry’s statement said.
Health, Labor, and Social Services Minister Viorica Dumbraveanu said on March 8 that the woman fell ill in Italy on February 28 and had been hospitalized there.
“However, she irresponsibly left the hospital and got on a plane and came back home,” Dumbraveanu said during a meeting of a special commission set up to deal with the coronavirus situation.