New Strain of Coronavirus Blamed for Mystery Pneumonia

  • By Pak Soo-chan, Yang Ji-ho

    January 10, 2020 10:44

    A new strain of coronavirus may be the culprit in a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the Chinese government said Thursday. The first suspected case occurred in Korea on Wednesday.

    Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which claimed the lives of 37 people here in 2015, is also a viral disease caused by coronavirus.

    But China's official CCTV quoted a scientist as saying a new type of coronavirus is probably responsible since it was found in 15 patients in a preliminary analysis he participated in. So far 59 patients have been diagnosed in China alone with viral pneumonia.

    Coronavirus is a common type that causes colds and infects both humans and animals. Six strains have been identified so far as sources of human diseases including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and MERS. The other four are not fatal but cause only mild colds. 

    Scientists examine specimens to determine the cause of viral pneumonia from China in a lab in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province on Thursday. /Yonhap

    Kim Woo-joo at Korea University Guro Hospital said, "There's very little possibility of human-to-human transmission unlike SARS and MERS, so it seems to be a less lethal strain since no deaths have been reported and there's been no surge in the number of patients yet."

    A 36-year-old Chinese woman has been quarantined at Seoul National University Hospital in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province since Tuesday night right after she was diagnosed at Dongtan Sacred Heart Hospital with the first case of the mysterious pneumonia here. An SNU Hospital staffer said she eats normally and is in stable condition.

    Twenty-nine people who had been in contact with her including a coworker who went with her to Wuhan on business on Dec. 13-17 as well as staff at Dongtan hospital have not shown any symptoms, a spokesman for the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

    The results of her virus test will be out within a week, the spokesman added. The KCDC is checking all arrivals from Wuhan for fever, but incubatory carriers may pass through undetected. The Chinese woman had shown no symptoms for 14 days returning from Wuhan.

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