A Mexico City infectious disease specialist has asserted that “there must be many more cases” of the novel coronavirus known as Covid-19 in Mexico than the seven reported to date.
Francisco Moreno Sánchez, head of internal medicine at the ABC hospital, described the situation as “very worrying” because people infected with the virus without knowing it will unwittingly spread it to others.
In an interview with El Heraldo Radio, the doctor warned that if a widespread outbreak occurs in Mexico, the nation’s healthcare system will struggle to provide adequate treatment to all those who require it.
Moreno said that Mexico should be carrying out more tests to detect cases of Covid-19, as has occurred in other countries such as South Korea. If people found to have the virus are placed in quarantine, its spread will be limited and deaths will be avoided, he said.
However, Moreno acknowledged the difficulty of widespread testing because there are only three medical centers in Mexico with certification to test for Covid-19.
The doctor charged that Mexico is taking the possibility of a large Covid-19 outbreak too lightly, pointing out that statistics show that the infectious disease is 25 times more deadly than influenza.
There should be greater efforts to detect cases of coronavirus among passengers arriving at Mexico’s airports, Moreno said, explaining that the illness that originated in Wuhan, China, late last year has now spread to more than 100 countries.
In Latin America, 106 Covid-19 cases had been detected in 11 countries as of Monday. While the number of cases is much lower than those in Asia, Europe and the United States, the figure represents a 10,500% increase since the first case was confirmed in Brazil on February 26.
While all seven Mexicans confirmed to have Covid-19 contracted the virus outside the country, there have been cases of local transmission in at least five Latin American countries, according to the World Health Organization.
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, told the news website BBC Mundo that the number of cases in the United States – where more than 800 Covid-19 infections and 27 deaths have been recorded – is likely to increase quickly, and that it will probably spread from there to Latin American nations in the near future.
“I suspect that what will happen in coming weeks is that a lot of the cases in Latin America will be linked to the United States,” he said.
Mexico is more susceptible than other Latin American countries to the spread of Covid-19 from the United States because the two nations share a 3,145-kilometer border, and large numbers of Mexicans travel between the two on a daily basis.
Hunter expressed the same concern as Moreno, the Mexico City infectious disease specialist, by stating that early detection of the virus is essential to limiting its spread.
“It’s simple: if tests aren’t done, you can’t know how many cases there are. There are several countries that haven’t reported any cases but the question is whether they’ve tested anyone,” he said.
For that reason, the number of cases reported at a global, regional and individual country level doesn’t offer a full picture of the prevalence of Covid-19, Hunter said.
In Mexico’s case – as Moreno noted – the failure to test more widely for coronavirus likely means that there are many undetected cases of Covid-19, which has now claimed the lives of almost 4,000 people around the world.