Third confirmed cholera case to come from Geoje

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Third confirmed cholera case to come from Geoje

As health authorities scramble to figure out how two patients were domestically infected with cholera late last month, yet a third patient was confirmed Wednesday.

Like the two previous cases, the third patient said he felt nauseous after eating seafood in the coastal city of Geoje, South Gyeongsang. One key difference, however, is that he did not eat his food raw.

The 64-year-old man, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC), purchased squid and sardines from a fish market in Geoje on Aug. 19 and ate them the same day.

The squid was blanched and the sardine was grilled. Two days later, he experienced diarrhea and went to a nearby clinic.

After seeing barely any improvement, the patient went to a university hospital in Busan on Aug. 26, where he received medical treatment in the intensive care unit. Government officials said he was confirmed to have cholera at the hospital.

He was discharged Wednesday after a full recovery. His 61-year-old wife tested negative for cholera. Authorities are now trying to check the three patients’ DNA to compare the strains of cholera they each had.

“I’ve been telling people there’s no need to worry about cholera if you grill your food,” said Jung Ki-suck, director of the KCDC, during a press meeting. He added he was “surprised” to learn that the most recent patient contracted cholera despite the fact he followed the rule.

“There’s always a chance he got the disease from some other source," Jung said, “or perhaps he didn’t grill his food long enough.”

Jung advised the public to meticulously wash their hands for at least 30 seconds and refrain from consuming raw seafood, a main source of the Vibrio cholerae bacterium that causes the disease.

Bacteria are normally found within the fishes’ gills, he added. The disease does not normally spread from one person to another.

The global fatality rate for cholera was 1.17 percent in 2014, but in Korea, not a single person has died from it over the past 20 years. There were about 450 patients diagnosed during that period.

Last week, health authorities formed emergency task forces to check whether any cholera patients have gone undetected. The seas are also being examined for contamination.

“We may yet see more cholera patients until late September,” Jung warned. “It’s really important that chefs handle their ingredients properly.”

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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