U.S. Forces Korea Issues Travel Warning After Coronavirus Case Found in Man Living Near Two Military Bases

United States Forces Korea is cautioning Americans in South Korea to take precautionary measures after a case of the new coronavirus strain was found near two military bases.

On Monday, U.S. Forces Korea posted on Facebook that the case, the country's fourth was identified in a man who resides in Pyeongtaek, near where U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys and Osan Air Base are located. Since it was discovered in China in December, the virus has spread to 10 countries and killed at least 56 people, raising concerns that it could turn into a deadly situation reminiscent of the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) confirmed that the country found a fourth case on Monday. The patient, a 55-year-old male, recently visited Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. He first visited a local clinic for cold-like symptoms on Tuesday but returned on Saturday with a fever and muscle pain and tested positive on Monday.

To help protect against contracting the virus, U.S. Forces Korea, which is part of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, advised everyone to avoid traveling (especially to China or when sick) and coming into contact with sick people. Those who feel ill with symptoms in line with the 2019-nCoV virus, such as fever, coughing or difficulty breathing, were told to seek U.S. medical care and treatment.

"Be sure to call ahead to the medical clinic to advise them of recent travels and current symptoms," U.S. Forces Korea wrote in its Facebook post.

There has been a recent global outbreak of a new virus spreading from Wuhan (China) with four confirmed cases in Korea...

Posted by U.S. Forces Korea on Sunday, January 26, 2020

The World Health Organization said 2,015 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV had been reported globally as of Sunday, with 56 deaths. WHO had considered declaring a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) but decided last Thursday it was too early to do so, citing a lack of a significant number of international cases.

Even though 2019-nCoV has not led to a PHEIC, WHO officials advised countries to take precautionary measures of their own. On Monday, Yoon Do-han, senior secretary to the president for public communication, told The Korea Herald that South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered full disclosure of information and the mobilization of medical personnel from the military to help limit the disease's spread.

All travelers from China will also be required to fill out health forms when they arrive in South Korea. Those from Wuhan or nearby areas who show signs of a fever or breathing problems will be put under quarantine, according to The Korea Herald, and travelers from other parts of China who show pneumonia-like symptoms will be put in isolation.

coronavirus south korea us bases military warning
A South Korean quarantine officer checks passengers from a flight from Wuhan, China, at Incheon International Airport in South Korea on January 22. A fourth case of coronavirus has been found in South Korea, near where two American military bases are located, prompting the military to issue a travel warning. Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty

On Friday, Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, told reporters that military commanders and base commanders were "keeping tabs" on cases. At the time, Hoffman said there were no indications that any of the outbreaks would affect personnel.

America's military has been following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department but will "make changes if we need to," according to Hoffman.

Newsweek reached out to the Department of Defense and U.S. Forces Korea but did not receive a response in time for publication.

The KCDC is conducting an epidemiological investigation into the most recent case, a process used to determine the source of exposure and people who may be at risk.