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First US service member diagnosed with coronavirus in South Korea

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Kevin Jones, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 95th Transportation Company, stands with his Company outside the Hill Top 303 Grill Oct. 8. He and his company were there to commemorate the reopening ceremony of the Camp Carroll dining facility, renamed after the events that occurred on Hill 303 during the Korean War. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jacob Ward/Released)
February 26, 2020

A U.S. soldier stationed in South Korea has tested positive with the coronavirus, military officials confirmed Wednesday.

The soldier was identified only as a 23-year-old man stationed at Camp Carroll in Waegwan, South Korea. Military officials who spoke to the New York Times said the soldier has since been quarantined in his off base housing.

The soldier had reportedly worked at Camp Carroll from Friday to Tuesday and visited Camp Walker, a military base in Daegu, on Monday.

Military officials said both U.S. and South Korean health professionals “are actively conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed.”

U.S. military officials also said they are implementing appropriate control measures to protect roughly 28,500 service members stationed in South Korea, where they have determined the risk level from coronavirus is high. Personnel have been advised to limit meetings that are “non-mission essential” and avoid travel off base whenever possible.

Guard stations at all bases in the country have been set up to conduct temperature checks and screening questionnaires for inbound traffic onto the base.

U.S. and South Korean military officials are also considering limiting joint-training after an outbreak of coronavirus among South Korean military members that has spread to at least 13 soldiers.

The coronavirus outbreak originated in China, which has subsequently seen the highest rate of infection by the virus overall. The virus has spread to other countries and the global total of infections has reached more than 80,000 with more than 2,600 deaths. Most of the infections and deaths have taken place within China

South Korea is the country most impacted by the virus outside of China itself and on Wednesday it confirmed 169 new patients, for a total of 1,146 infected throughout the country.

The South Korean city of Daegu, where the infected U.S. soldier visited, has reportedly seen the largest concentration of coronavirus cases in the country.

The news of the first infected U.S. service member comes on the heels of warnings by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the community spread of coronavirus throughout the U.S. is likely.

There are now 53 confirmed coronavirus cases within the U.S., 36 of which were repatriated passengers quarantined aboard Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan. Another three of the U.S. patients were those Americans evacuated from China. Nineteen of the cases were originally confirmed within the U.S.

The Trump administration has made an emergency $2.5 billion funding request from Congress in order to prepare hospitals for a significant coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., and to speed up the development of a vaccine for the infection.