SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea has confirmed its first case of cholera in 15 years, local health authorities said Tuesday.
A 59-year-old man from the southern city of Gwangju was confirmed to have been infected with the water-borne disease, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said, adding the man doesn’t have any records of overseas travel this year.
It marks the first time that a South Korean national has been infected with the diarrhetic disease on local soil since 2001, the KCDC said.
In 2001, an outbreak hit the Gyeongsang region in southern South Korea, infecting 162 people.
The KCDC said it is conducting an in-depth epidemiological investigation into the patient and looking into the possibility that he contracted cholera from eating imported food.
The city government of Gwangju said it assumes that the patient, who had traveled through the southern coast of the country earlier this month, was infected with the disease after eating raw fish.
“The outbreak of cholera on domestic soil was not expected at all,” Chung Ki-seok, chief of the KCDC, told reporters, partially attributing the outbreak to the prolonged heat wave.
During the past weeks, South Korea has experienced record-high heat, with Seoul’s average daily high hovering around 35 C and its daily low remaining over 25 C.
“It is a good environment for the bacteria to survive as the temperatures are so hot,” Chung said, adding the agency does not rule out the possibility of a mass infection.
The acute diarrheal disease is caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera, the KCDC said, noting that symptoms do not show for two to three days.
The disease, which is curable with proper medication and treatment, affects 3 million to 5 million people annually and claims more than 100,000 lives throughout the world.
The World Health Organization advises that the best way to prevent the disease is to take care of the sanitation and have access to clean water.
Amid concerns over the possible spread of cholera, the KCDC said it has confirmed mass hepatitis C infections in Seoul.
The KCDC said it is conducting an epidemiological investigation into a total of 11,306 patients who received treatment at a clinic in southern Seoul.
The agency suspects the people contracted the disease after receiving various injections there last year, with many other similar cases suspected in other clinics earlier this year.
Health authorities are carrying out blood sample tests on the patients who received injections at the clinic.
“Criminally charging doctors is not the job of the KCDC, but they will be punished,” said Chung, such as revoking the medical service license of doctors and legally punish them for crimes if they are found to have re-used disposable syringes.