Officials at the Ministry of Health announced at 09:00 (local time) on Thursday, February 20, that there are 82 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) nationwide. Dozens of newly infected patients originate from Daegu (North Gyeongsang province), where authorities believe a single super-spreader is potentially responsible for infecting approximately 40 individuals at her church. They said it was not yet clear as of Thursday how the individual had contracted the virus as she had no known contact with infected patients or recent travel history abroad.
Health authorities have rejected a lockdown of Daegu as they say that the situation is manageable. However, 147 public facilities including hospitals, restaurants, and kindergartens in the province are reportedly closed as of Thursday. The "2020 Daegu Super Concert" event scheduled in Daegu on Sunday, March 8, was also canceled. Further business disruptions are anticipated, as the virus is expected to spread in the coming days and weeks.
South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines announced on Wednesday, February 12, that it will reduce service to China until March 28. The government is also advising Korean nationals to refrain from traveling to China, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in 30 countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Individuals in North Gyeongsang province are advised to monitor the situation, anticipate further business disruptions, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, individuals are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.