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(2nd LD) Virus-infected hospital staff stoke concerns over further transmission to patients

17:29 February 21, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more latest tally in para 5)

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- Some nurses at a hospital here have contracted the new coronavirus, fueling fears that more virus cases will be identified, public health officials said Friday.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), and public health authorities in North Gyeongsang Province said Thursday that five nurses at the psychiatric ward at Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, 320 kilometers southeast of Seoul, have all tested positive for COVID-19.

The country's first death from the virus was reported at the same hospital.

The country's health authorities said a total of 16 people have tested positive for the virus out of 600 patients and medical staff at the hospital.

The country has reported 204 cases of COVID-19. In three days, the number of virus infections has almost quadrupled with over 150 cases being reported in the country's fourth-largest city of Daegu and neighboring North Gyeongsang Province.

The first infection was confirmed here on Jan. 20.

Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, 320 kilometers southeast of Seoul, is temporarily closed, with patients and staff placed in quarantine, after 16 people including five nurses tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Feb. 20, 2020. (Yonhap)

Transmissions taking places in hospitals and clinics are of grave concern because of the risk of exposing sick people, who are more vulnerable to infections, to the virus.

The KCDC said that it is in the process of checking everyone as quickly as possible and plans to move people who have tested negative to other medical facilities for observation.

Infections among medical staff are of particular concern, as South Korea struggled with outbreaks related to medical institutions during the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak that resulted in 38 deaths after 186 people were infected in the country.

It is estimated that 172 of the people infected at the time contracted MERS at medical institutions, with the total including 25 doctors, nurses and medical support personnel.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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