A member of one of the indigenous Amazon tribes in Ecuador was the first tribesperson in the world to be diagnosed with COVID-19, health officials announced.

(Photo : REUTERS/Bruno Kelly)
A view of the Parque Taruma cemetery during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Manaus, Brazil May 13, 2020.

The infected person has been identified as a Waorani tribe's 17-year-old pregnant woman who started showing symptoms on May 4. She was taken to a hospital in Quito, Ecuador's capital, and placed in solitary confinement, a statement from the health ministry said.

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Federal gov't working closely with IPs

According to the Agence France-Presse, Ecuador's federal government worked with indigenous leaders to check 40 individuals the woman contacted in the Miwaguno community.

"Seventeen citizens with a history of respiratory systems were found. To date, six of them have symptoms, so 20 rapid tests and seven nasopharyngeal swabs were performed," the health ministry said.

The results of the tests and details regarding the girl's health have yet to be made public. 

According to the news agency, Waorani organizations had cautioned that COVID-19's effects on their populations could become "catastrophic and highly lethal" because of their susceptibility to disease. The city of Miwaguno has a population of approximately 140. 

The Waorani nation has around 2,000 members live within the modern Ecuadorian provinces 

of Orellana, Napo, and Pastaza - located in the far west Amazon region. 

Amazon Frontlines, a non-profit that works with indigenous peoples in Amazon, said the tribes historically lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers in small clan villages.

COVID-19 hits more than 30 tribal communities in Brazil

Meanwhile, in Brazil, the coronavirus pandemic has hit 38 indigenous communities, affecting a fearful population with a history of being affected by different diseases.

A survey conducted by the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples' Association (APIB) recorded 446 coronavirus cases and 92 deaths among the communities - most of them located in the Brazilian Amazon.

"The virus is reaching indigenous territories across Brazil with frightening speed," APIB said in a statement, according to Al Jazeera.

As of Monday morning, May 18, data from Johns Hopkins Universit showed that Ecuador had more than 33,182 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 2,736 deaths from the virus.

The port city of Guayaquil in Ecuador has been described as the center of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Latin America between March and April. Cemeteries were running out of spaces. Reuters said that families were forced to store dead bodies of their relatives in their homes or on the streets.

Attention is now directed at Quito in the region, which has 2.8 million residents under strict lockdown.

"Quito's health system is reaching its limit," the city's mayor, Jorge Yunda, said on Friday, May 15, according to the news organization.

The outbreak has increased in Brazil in recent weeks. More than 241,080 cases of coronavirus and at least 16,100 deaths from the virus have occurred in the country. In terms of the overall number of events, it's behind just the USA, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

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