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(2nd LD) S. Korea reports 3rd confirmed case of Zika virus

All News 21:36 April 29, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with finding of Zika-spreading mosquito in paras 7-9)

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has confirmed its third Zika virus infection, local health authorities said Friday, raising fears about the rapid spread of the mildly contagious virus throughout the country.

The brother of a man diagnosed with the infection two days earlier has tested positive in a urine test for the mosquito-borne virus, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

The 21-year old man, however, was not categorized as a confirmed Zika patient as his blood test was negative and he has no typical symptoms like muscle pain or skin rashes.

"He was infected with the Zika virus but has no symptoms," said a KCDC official. "There is a slim possibility that he caught the virus through a mosquito bite given his negative blood test result."

The man, who joined the Army on Tuesday to serve his two-year mandatory military service, has been admitted to a military hospital near Seoul for further medical treatment, according to the KCDC.

He traveled in the Philippines with his 20-year-old brother from April 10-14, when the younger man was infected with the virus.

The KCDC later said it has found Zika-spreading Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the country for the first time this year.

In a sample survey of 39 areas nationwide from March, the mosquitoes were spotted in three cities: Seogwipo in Jeju Island, Jinju in South Gyeongsang Province and Cheongju in North Chungcheong Province, according to the agency.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, active between May and October, are known to spread viruses like Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

On Wednesday, the younger brother was confirmed to be the country's second Zika patient after showing flu-like symptoms upon his return from the Philippines. He said he was bitten by a mosquito during his vacation.

The latest case raises the number of confirmed infections in South Korea to three. Last month, a 43-year-old man was confirmed as the first case of the virus in the country. The man reported being bitten by a mosquito while traveling in Brazil.

The latest Zika cases have raised concerns over a widespread epidemic in South Korea just a year after an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

The respiratory disease, first confirmed in May last year, claimed 38 lives before the government officially declared the country free of MERS in December.

Fears of a full-scale inland epidemic had weighed heavily on the economy, dragging down domestic consumption and reducing foreign visitors.

Months ahead of the Brazil Summer Olympics, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus outbreak a global emergency.

Zika was first discovered in Africa and has spread to parts of Asia and Latin America, including many Caribbean countries and Brazil. In Asia, China and Japan have reported a few confirmed cases.

brk@yna.co.kr
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