A new case of the new coronavirus disease, Covid-19, in Korea has been confirmed for the first time in six days as the 29th confirmed case of the infectious disease occurred on Sunday. Given that he didn’t travel overseas, it is highly unlikely that the patient has been in contact with existing patients. This is the first patient with an unknown transmission route in Korea, which raises concern about the possibility of community transmission.
The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that the 29th patient is an 82-year-old Korean man, the oldest among the nation’s patients reported. He visited the emergency room of Korea University Anam Hospital in Seoul’s Seongbuk district due to chest pain around 11 a.m. on Friday, and medical staff checked to find that the patient had never been abroad since December last year. Without any unusual symptoms such as fever and respiratory illness, the patient was treated in the intensive care section of the hospital’s emergency room.
CT scans, however, revealed he came down with the viral pneumonia. The hospital immediately quarantined the patient in a negative pressure room, and performed diagnostic test to confirm he was positive on Sunday. The patient was taken to Seoul National University Hospital around 2 a.m. on the day. The emergency room at Korea University Anam Hospital stopped operation and was shut down immediately. Other patients in the emergency room have been quarantined in single-bed rooms, and all medical staff have been self-quarantined at their homes. The 29th patient is in generally stable condition even tough he has still some fever and pneumonia symptoms.
"We have checked to find that the 29th patient had a dry cough for about a week recently and his body temperature measured in the emergency room was 37.5 degrees Celsius," KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyung said. “We are currently investigating the origin and route of his infection.” He reportedly visited two clinics near his residence in Seoul’s Jongno district, before visiting Korea University Anam Hospital.
Analysts raise concern that community transmission might have become a reality in Korea, as a patient with unknown transmission route has occurred here for the first time. Apart from China, a growing number of patients infected with the coronavirus who did not travel overseas have emerged in Japan and Singapore. “Due to the characteristics of the infectious disease, which has strong transmissibility from the moment the patient shows mild symptoms, there is a risk of community transmission,” Jeong said. “We are considering strengthening our response to the disease, including expansion of people subject to selective testing to include those who have little epidemiological connection (to existing patient), and preemptive isolation of suspected people.”