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First Patient Suspected of SARS Found in Korea

Posted April. 29, 2003 22:06,   


The first SARS infection (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) was announced in Korea.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) reported on April 28 that a man in his 40s entering the country through Incheon International Airport after a long period in Beijing, displayed the symptoms of high fever, cough and bronchial trouble. He was classified as a probable case and sent to a designated hospital. He displayed symptoms of pneumonia as a result of detailed X-ray examinations, the NIH announced.

The patient, who returned on April 28, had been in Beijing taking a language course for 2 months. He reported to the quarantine center at Incheon International Airport.

He reportedly said that had been sick for three days before arriving. He was immediately sent to a designated hospital after displaying symptoms of high fever over 38.2C and muscle aches to medical staff.

The NIH summoned an urgent consultation committee to discuss the results of the X-ray examination taken from the patient and classified him as the first SARS case in Korea due to his symptoms of pneumonia. This was the first case in the world that a suspected patient was reclassified as a probable patient through quarantine inspection at an airport.

If in fact the patient is infected with SARS, Korea will then become the 28th country to be hit by the deadly illness (Hong Kong is counted as China) since the Chinese Institute of Health at Guangdongsheng publicly reported on February 11 that 305 had been infected and 5 died by the as yet unclassified strain of pneumonia.

However, the consultation committee asked to find the exact cause through detailed examinations because some results showed the possibility of bacterial-related pneumonia.

“He will be excluded from the list of patients if his illness appears to be something else, such as bacterial-related pneumonia through more detailed examination,” NIH Director Kim Mun-sik said.

Regarding this case the NIH said: “There is a possibility that his disease could be bacterial-related pneumonia. However, the man was in SARS hotspots and has symptoms of high fever, bronchial trouble and pneumonia, which the WHO considers symptoms of a probable case. We have decided to report the case to the WHO.”

The NIH has begun tracing 82 people (including 11 foreigners) out of 106 passengers through phone calls, who had been on board the same Chinese International Airlines flight as the patient now in Korea.

With regard to the 10 passengers who were traveling near the patient, the NIH has isolated 4 people in their homes and is looking into the residences of the other 3 foreign passengers.

The NIH reported the occurrence of probable SARS infections to the WHO, and through the organization, notified the Chinese authorities so that they could check the symptoms of 12 flight attendants. The Chinese International Airlines flight that the patient had been on board turned back at 12:40 p.m. on April 28.

As of April 29, there are 14 patients suspected of SARS and among them 8 people are in the hospital. The reported number of SARS cases has now increased to 57.

As Hanoi, Vietnam has now been excluded from the list of SARS risk zones, so too is Korea, announced the NIH. The organization also stated that the true name of SARS would be the ‘SARS corona virus’.

leej@donga.com egija@donga.com