South Korea on alert as 31 hit by mystery illness

Seoul, Oct 30 (IANS) South Korean health authorities have stepped up monitoring students and faculty at Konkuk University in Seoul after an unconfirmed virus infected 31 people, the media reported.

Ten more were confirmed to be suffering from similar symptoms on the same day, after 21 showed symptoms of high fever and coughing since last week, the Korea Herald reported.

The government on Thursday said it is closely monitoring over 850 students and lecturers who have been using the College of Animal Bioscience and Technology building in northeastern Seoul, to check if more were infected.

All the 31 patients are from three laboratories in the university building. Of the patients, 23 were placed in isolation at state-run facilities, while eight others were quarantined at home, with the government still trying to find the cause of the infection.

The university also put up posters around campus asking those who visited the bioscience building from October 8-28 and who are showing suspicious symptoms to report to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since a 26-year-old female student from the college showed symptoms on October 19, 20 more students working toward their doctoral and master’s degrees at laboratories in the building have contracted the unknown virus.

With the growing number of patients, Konkuk University has shut down the whole building.

“We assume that the source of infection is inside the building, but don’t know what exactly it is,” a health official said, adding “For now, there are no human-to-human infections and the virus hasn’t spread outside the building.”

As of Thursday evening, there were no additional cases of infection.

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