South Korea: Undiagnosed Respiratory Disease

By Patrick Wedlock

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Disease: Unknown respiratory disease with pneumonia-like symptoms

Recap: Since mid-October, 50 suspected cases of an undiagnosed respiratory illness have occurred in researchers from the Animal Science Building at Konkuk University in Seoul. The majority of infected persons are in isolated hospital care, with the rest in home isolation. Hundreds of people are being monitored for the development of symptoms.  Korean CDC is considering a potential laboratory accident, and has ruled out a number of common disease agents. Two of the most likely pathogens are Q fever and brucellosis – both of which have low fatality rates – although initial testing has come back negative for each. The research building has been closed for the investigation.  Case counts abruptly increased during the course of the investigation, which is a common phenomenon in the context of outbreak investigations where officials uncover unrecognized cases.  Often this is interpreted by the lay media as abrupt transmission, which in this case may simply reflect recognition of previously unrecognized cases.

Relevance: The relevance of this particular report is

  1. Suspected accident of biotechnology that may have involved infection of the researchers;
  2. Unknown transmission potential of a possible unidentified pathogen;
  3. Undertone of global concern regarding research with live pathogens capable of triggering outbreaks or epidemics;
  4. Seoul is a major air traffic hub with the rest of the world.

IDIS: Category 3

Current vs. Forecast: No forecast available. Outbreak investigations and contact tracing by the Korean CDC continue to uncover new suspected cases. The current number of infected in isolation is 50 people, with hundreds being monitored. Brucellosis, one of the suspected causative agents, is past peak season in the region.  Brucellosis is an uncommon disease in South Korea.

Guidance: No guidance currently apart from situational awareness. Analysts are watching closely for transmission in community and/or healthcare workers, medical infrastructure strain, reports of severity, and diagnostic proof.  Thus far, no evidence of human-human transmission or medical infrastructure strain has been reported.

Final Observation: Disruption remains low due to current containment of disease and isolation of suspected patients.

Category: news

Posted on: Nov 2, 2015 | Share:
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