While the world's scientists are working hard to find a vaccine for COVID-19, doctors in Argentina have their hands full with a mysterious development. Some weeks ago, 61 sailors embarked on a journey aboard a fishing trawler. They returned to land after spending 35 days at sea but 57 of them have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
This is where the mystery begins. All 61 of the crew members had undergone testing prior to leaving for the journey and all had been found devoid of the dreaded Coronavirus. On top of that, they had also spent 14 days in quarantine after having tested negative, to further ensure that they are not infected.
Yet, somehow, aboard the Echizen Maru trawler, many of the sailors started to get sick with symptoms of COVID-19. The boat returned to a port in Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego province, where, subjected to new tests, 57 of them were found to be carrying Coronavirus.
Of the remaining four crew members, two have been found negative while the reports of the other two are yet to come. Of those infected, two crew members have been hospitalized.
"It's hard to establish how this crew was infected, considering that for 35 days, they had no contact with dry land and that supplies were only brought in from the port of Ushuaia," director of primary health care in the province of Tierra del Fuego, Alejandra Alfaro, informed the media.
The experts at the Ushuaia Regional Hospital are trying to trace the origin of the infections and how it reached the crew members despite all the precautions. Leandro Ballatore, who leads the infectious diseases department at this hospital is also perplexed by the sequence of events.
According to him, it is a "case that escapes all description in publications, because an incubation period this long has not been described anywhere." He also admitted that he and his team are currently clueless about how the virus reached the trawler. "We cannot yet explain how the symptoms appeared."
There is a possibility that there may have been some flaw in the testing done prior to the journey. If that is the case, authorities who were involved in that testing will have a lot to answer for. However, there is a much more dangerous possibility.
If the virus did indeed remain dormant for longer than what scientists believe it is able to, it would force authorities the world over to make major changes in the quarantine period and amend their safety protocols. It may also suggest that the virus has changed somewhat. That too is a worrying prospect.
Overall, Argentina has recorded more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1,859 people have died so far. This isn't as bad a record as some countries have experienced more infections but the governments will have to stay vigilant to prevent more damage.