American soldier stationed in South Korea tested positive with coronavirus!

Kevin Cho , Feb. 26, 2020, 10:40 a.m.

An American soldier stationed in the southeastern South Korean town of Chilgok tested positive for the new coronavirus, U.S. Forces Korea said Wednesday, marking the first case among USFK service personnel.

The 23-year-old soldier at Camp Carroll was transferred from his off-base residence to a hospital at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, after being confirmed to have the infection, according to officials.

Chilgok, about 220 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in North Gyeongsang Province, is near the city of Daegu, where a coronavirus outbreak has spread rapidly in recent days. It is the first time that a USFK service member has been infected with the virus, though a 61-year-old "widowed USFK dependent" residing in Daegu tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

It was not immediately clear how he contracted the virus. Of the total 1,261 confirmed cases in South Korea, 1,027 patients, more than 81 percent, are residents of Daegu and the surrounding province, according to official statistics.

South Korean and U.S. health officials are tracing the service member's contacts to determine whether any others may have been exposed, as he visited Camp Walker in Daegu on Monday and Camp Carroll from Friday to Tuesday, according to USFK.

"USFK is implementing all appropriate control measures to help control the spread of COVID-19 and remains at risk level 'high' for USFK peninsula-wide as a prudent measure to protect the force," USFK said in a release.

It has limited all service members' off-installation travel, as well as non-mission essential in-person gatherings and meetings, and implemented a tougher process for accessing garrisons across the country. Additional measures are expected to be implemented, according to its officials.

Amid the continued spread of the potentially deadly virus, South Korea and the U.S. have discussed the potential adjustment of their combined military exercises slated for March. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, South Korea had reported 1,261 confirmed cases of the new virus, including 12 deaths. Among South Korean service members, 20 have tested positive.

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