Thousands infected by unidentified virus in South Korea

Crisis from Crisis Committee.

Contagion. An unidentified virus has spread in Cheorwon County, South Korea claiming the deaths of 16 people and infecting thousands since Monday evening.
By Allan Finch

SOUTH KOREA: Monday November 17th at approximately 10pm local time the first case of the unknown disease was reported concerning a 38-year-old woman in Cheorwon County, which is located next to the border with North Korea. Thousands have been reported infected ever since and The Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirm that 16 people have so far died after contracting the virus, which currently is limited to Cheorwon County.

The World Health Organization warns that the outbreak in Cheorwon County is likely to grow and spread across the country, as the number of people under quarantine crept up to 1,679 Wednesday morning. The World Health Organisation has confirmed that many new cases are contracted within hospitals further stating that the extent of the outbreak in Cheorwon County is alarming – infecting another person every 10 minutes.

The cause of the epidemic has not yet been determined, but doctors at the Cheorwon Gil Hospital are performing various tests on the infected to gain further insight into the causes and effects of the disease.


Similar effects as HIV

Doctors at the Cheorwon University Hospital are currently researching the disease, which was undetected prior to the outbreak of this epidemic. So far the research suggests that the disease causes a collapse of the entire immune system, letting otherwise treatable diseases lead to death. These effects are very similar to the effects of the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV. Only this infection is much more aggressive and contagious.

The disease has caught the attention of scientists across the world, who are currently researching both the disease’s effect on the diseased long-term and the reasons for the outbreak of the disease.


Cause unknown

The first case, concerning a woman was reported on November 17th. The woman had not been traveling, and had not had contact with the outside world, which means the disease has developed in the local area according to the World Health Organization. Current research can so far not explain the exact cause of the disease.


Airborne spread

Current research furthermore suggests that the disease might be airborne, infecting another person every 10 minutes. At the press conference on Tuesday at 5pm local time the director of the Cheorwon Gil Hospital expressed his concerns: “Due to the easy spread of the disease and the limited progress in detecting the disease we fear how far this virus will spread, before a cure is found”. Fear about the virus is gripping many in South Korea. There are no vaccines, no cures and the fatality rate for the illness is high.


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Maiken Vindmar

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