March 20, 2020 11:35
A teenager who died suddenly of pneumonia in Daegu tested negative for coronavirus after his death, according to health officials on Thursday.
The death of the 17-year-old made headlines as he could have become the first teenager in the country to die of coronavirus without prior history of illness. It also raised fears that hospitals would be hopelessly overstretched in treating severe infections.
Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang Province are home to 87 percent of confirmed coronavirus cases in Korea, and there have been several cases in which gravely ill patients were sent home due to a lack of hospital beds.
Kwon Jun-wook, deputy head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on Thursday, "All tests by the KCDC, Seoul National University Hospital and Yonsei University's Severance Hospital have come back negative."
The youngster, who was hospitalized at Yeungnam University Medical Center on March 13, had tested negative for COVID-19 in 12 consecutive tests, but a 13th test earlier this week came out partially positive.
The teenager's illness was an anomaly. Before being admitted to YUMD, he visited a smaller local hospital three times after pneumonia set in but was sent home after a coronavirus test. His conditions got worse even before the test result came out. It remains unclear what caused his pneumonia.
Bang Ji-hwan at the National Medical Center said, "We need to conduct an autopsy to see exactly why he died."
But quarantine officials say there is no need for an autopsy, since he did not die from COVID-19 and it requires parental consent, which the mother refuses to give.
YUMC had listed coronavirus as the cause of death on his death certificate, only to change it to pneumonia later. But hospital officials said it was due to suspicions of a coronavirus infection and to give the parents access to discounts on medical costs for sufferers from the epidemic.
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