17-Year-Old Dies of Pneumonia in Daegu

  • By Yang Ji-ho

    March 19, 2020 12:51

    A 17-year-old student died Wednesday from acute pneumonia possibly caused by coronavirus, which would make him the first teenager in Korea to die of the infection.

    The sudden death of the boy, who had no prior history of illness, just six days after being hospitalized has left medical experts stumped.

    Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Jung Eun-kyeong told reporters, "The patient repeatedly tested negative for coronavirus and only the last test came out partially positive, prompting the KCDC to handle the testing."

    According to hospital officials, the teenager was tested eight times from March 13 until this Wednesday and only the last test suggested some probability of infection.

    He first visited a local hospital on March 12 after displaying symptoms of pneumonia, but a doctor sent him back home. His condition worsened the next day and the teenager developed a high fever, prompting his parents to take him to the bigger Yeungnam University Medical Center where he was treated under quarantine. He was placed on a respirator on March 14.

    Doctors are at work at Yeungnam University Medical Center in Daegu on Wednesday. /Yonhap

    Ma Sang-hyuk at Changwon Fatima Hospital said, "Such cases of acute pneumonia are very rare in Korea and we are highly suspicious of a coronavirus infection. This could have been a case of 'cytokine storm syndrome,' which generates an excessive immune response that arises as a complication of some diseases or infections."

    If the teenager is found to have died of coronavirus, fears of the disease are expected to grow even further. Until now, the disease was thought to be fatal only to patients with weakened immune systems and other conditions, chiefly the elderly.

    Chinese medical experts analyzed 44,000 cases in Hubei Province and found that only one of every 549 fatalities were teenagers, while there were no deaths among children under 10.

    As of Wednesday, 438 teenagers here had tested positive for coronavirus, accounting for only 5.2 percent of the total.

    Lee Sang-won at the KCDC said the results of the teenager's final test will come out by Thursday.

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