On Friday, a U.S. Navy sailor at Naval Support Activity Naples tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first COVID-19 case of an American service member in Europe, officials told Navy Times.
The sailor is restricted to his or her residence and will continue to receive care prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Italian health agencies.
Anyone who is suspected of having been in close contact with the unidentified sailor also have been notified and are in self-isolation at their residences, according to a prepared statement released Saturday by U.S. European Command.
It remains unclear how many sailors and their families have been affected by the coronavirus case there or the severity of the illness for the infected sailor.
Italy’s coronavirus outbreak has been concentrated in the northern region of Lombardy, more than 480 miles north of Naples.
For additional information, Pentagon officials referred Navy Times to EUCOM in Germany, which did not return messages.
In the meantime, military health workers are conducting what European Command officials in their prepared statement called a “thorough contact investigation” to locate any other personnel who might have been exposed to the potentially lethal virus.
“Depending on the results of that investigation, additional precautionary measures may be taken,” the statement indicated.
EUCOM officials say that they are coordinating with the U.S. Embassy, Italian authorities and public health experts to ensure the health of both American service members, their families and the local population.
In Italy, Civil Protection Agency officials announced that the death toll from the new strain of coronavirus there has risen to 197 following the largest hike in fatalities there since the global outbreak began.
It’s the most deaths in any nation except China, where the virus emerged in the city of Wuhan in December.
Italian authorities say that they are tracking more than 4,600 reported cases. Globally, the World Health Organization say the coronavirus has sickened more than 101,000 people, killing more than 3,000, mostly in China.
Following the coronavirus infection of a U.S. Army soldier in South Korea, on Feb. 26 U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. John C. “Lung” Aquilino directed all vessels visiting nations in the 7th Fleet area of operations “to remain at sea for at least 14 days before pulling into another port in order to monitor sailors for any symptoms" of COVID-19.
The measure was taken to prevent the spread of the disease to both the U.S. military and populations in the ports that personnel visit.
This is a breaking story and Navy Times will keep adding to it as more information becomes available.
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.