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(3rd LD) S. Korea reports 12th confirmed case of novel coronavirus

All News 14:51 February 01, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS lead; ADDS more info throughout)

SEOUL, Feb. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Saturday reported its 12th confirmed case of the novel coronavirus and said it is checking 70 others with symptoms, as the country tightens quarantine efforts to stem the spread of the contagious disease.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the latest case involves a 49-year-old Chinese man who works as a tour guide in Japan and arrived in the country on Jan. 19 through Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul.

The KCDC said the man was acquainted with a Japanese person infected with the virus, indicating that he may be another person-to-person transmission case. It said that the Japanese acquaintance had urged the man to go to a hospital to be checked.

"He visited a hospital here where tests showed he was infected and has since been placed under quarantine," the public health agency said.

It said every effort is being made to determine details of his whereabouts while in the country and people he may have come in contact with, adding more information of the case will be provided later.

The agency said it has so far checked 371 people since Jan. 3, and with the exception of the 12 confirmed cases and those undergoing checks, determined that 289 people that showed symptoms were not actually infected by the virus that is suspected of having originated in Wuhan, China. It said some 460 people who had been in close proximity to confirmed cases are being monitored carefully.

A South Korean who arrived from Wuhan, China, on a chartered flight is taken to a hospital in Seoul on Feb. 1, 2020, after showing signs of illness on arrival at Gimpo International Airport. (Yonhap)

South Korea confirmed its first coronavirus case on Jan. 20, with the second incident being reported on Jan. 24, followed by one each on Sunday and Monday. The country said two more cases were recorded Thursday, with five being announced Friday.

Of the total, five incidents are people who have not been to China recently and were infected by others. This kind of transmission is worrisome because such people do not know they have contracted the illness even if they have symptoms and can go about contaminating large numbers of people unwittingly.

Common signs of infection include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome and even lead to death.

It said authorities are tracing the steps of people that have been infected, who were asymptomatic upon entering the country so it can send teams to decontaminate areas they visited. They said all people who have tested positive for the illness in the country are in stable condition.

"The fourth patient, a 55-year-old Korean is being treated for pneumonia, although his condition is not life-threatening in anyway," an official source said. He stressed that none of the people kept in isolation were in critical condition. He said for those that are getting better, authorities are conducting so-called polymerase chain reaction assays twice every 24 hours to see if the virus is still in the body. If the tests turn out to be negative, they will be released from quarantine, although this does not mean they will be able to leave the hospital.

Others said those that have been to China in the last 14 days should refrain from leaving the house and if they feel sick visit the nearest screening clinic as soon as possible. This comes as Seoul already said it is checking everyone who has been to the Wuhan region since Jan. 13 regardless of if a person shows symptoms as a precautionary measure.

In regards to the blanket screening process, the KCDC said it has not been able to contact 50 Korean nationals on the list and said it has sent text messages to the individuals and local governments who have been asked to find them. It said people who get the notification need to cooperate with the required checkup process.

The total number of people who flew from the Chinese city has been tallied at 2,991, with Korean nationals making up 1,085 as of Thursday, with 398 foreigners still thought to be in the country.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said that of the 18 people sent to hospitals after being airlifted from Wuhan on Friday, 11 were shown to not be infected, with seven still being checked. The total number of people brought in on the first airlift was 368, with the second, which arrived earlier Saturday, carrying 333, with seven taken to a hospital for further checks.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said at the daily news briefing that while the government is taking all the steps it can to control the virus, ordinary people should do their part to take extra care of personal hygiene.

The KCDC, meanwhile, said that as of early Saturday, the virus, has killed 259 people and infected around 12,000 people worldwide.

A staff member at Seoul National University Hospital in Bundang, south of Seoul, is in a full protective suit waiting to check people entering the entrance on Jan. 29, 2020. (Yonhap)


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