South Korea confirmed that the fourth person infected with the Chinese coronavirus had crisscrossed across major metropolitan areas before showing symptoms, giving rise to fears of a possible pandemic in the country.
The news comes as the reported death toll in China rose to 106 Tuesday, indicating that 24 people died in a single day. The number of confirmed cases also climbed to about 4,400, according to local reports.
In Korea, experts are noting that all four patients have directly been to Wuhan, and the virus has not yet spread to others in human-to-human transmission.
However, health authorities remain on high alert, especially considering that the third and fourth confirmed patients have been found to have traveled across Seoul and Gyeonggi Province before being identified and quarantined.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC), the third patient came into contact with 70 people before being quarantined, and the fourth patient contacted around 172 people, bringing the total of possible infections to 242 cases.
Per the fear of a possible epidemic, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MoHW) initiated a risk assessment meeting. It raised the level of risk of infectious disease to ‘alert,’ indicating that the country is one step away from declaring the situation as the highest alarm of ‘severe.’
Along these lines, President Moon Jae-in ordered check-ups for all people entering the country from Wuhan as a preemptive measure and called for utilizing military medical workforce and facilities if necessary.
Patient confirmation timeline in Korea
The KCDC confirmed the first patient last Monday, identifying the patient as a 35-year old Chinese female who had entered into Incheon Airport from a plane from Wuhan, China.
The patient suffered from fever, chills, and muscle pain starting Saturday, the day before she entered the country. The patient also reportedly told health authorities that she did not visit Wuhan seafood and traditional markets or come into contact with other confirmed coronavirus patients or animals.
The KCDC confirmed the second patient Friday, saying that the patient was a 55-year old Korean male who worked in Wuhan.
The patient reportedly showed signs of a cold on the 10th and visited a domestic medical clinic around the 19th. Health authorities confirmed the patient to have the Chinese coronavirus while screening him at Gimpo International Airport last Wednesday when he was en route to China.
The health authorities confirmed the third patient Sunday and the fourth patient on Monday.
The third patient is a 54-year old Korean male that lives in Wuhan, China. The patient returned to Korea last Monday with no apparent symptoms. KCDC confirmed that the patient visited plastic surgery clinics, hotels and restaurants for four days before being quarantined.
Starting Wednesday, the patient reported fever, chills, and aches that prompted him to take fever-reducing pills such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The patient called the national coronavirus hotline after symptoms of intermittent coughing and sputum Saturday and was then quarantined.
The KCDC confirmed the fourth patient to be a 54-year old Korean male who visited Wuhan and returned to Korea last Monday. The patient reportedly visited a local clinic last Tuesday after reporting symptoms of a cold.