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U.S. Soldier Infected with Coronavirus in South Korea, Officials Say

A woman wearing a mask to prevent contracting the coronavirus uses her mobile phone at a shopping district in Seoul, South Korea, February 24, 2020. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

The U.S. confirmed Wednesday that a member of the military stationed in South Korea had contracted the coronavirus, the first U.S. service member to be infected in the outbreak.

Officials said that the soldier had visited the American military base in the Korean city of Daegu — the epicenter of the outbreak in South Korea — on Tuesday before testing positive for the virus.

“The patient, a 23-year old male, is currently in self quarantine at his off-base residence . . . KCDC and USFK health professionals are actively conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed,” a statement from U.S. Forces Korea said.

After Korea reported 51 cases last week, the number of infected people has jumped to 1,261 as of Wednesday, with approximately 80 percent of the cases occurring in Daegu.

The roughly 28,500 American military personnel in South Korea have been instructed by leadership to not go off-base amid the rising number of cases in Korea — which is now the most affected country besides China. Officials also said that South Korea would scale back joint military exercises with the U.S. in the wake of the epidemic.

U.S. officials warned Tuesday that the U.S. is likely to suffer its own coronavirus outbreak, with officials still waiting on the Center for Disease Control to roll out a testing kit for cases.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more but a question of when this will happen,” Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters.

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