The 43-year-old man, who had made a business trip to Brazil for 22 days, tested positive at 6 a.m. local time on Tuesday (2100 GMT on Monday) for the mosquito-borne virus, according to the KCDC. He returned to South Korea on March 11.
He stayed at the northeastern state of Ceara in Brazil, where he was bitten by mosquitoes, KCDC director Jung Ki-Suck told an emergency press briefing.
Zika is a flavi-virus that is primarily spread by mosquito bites, but it can be transmitted through sex and blood transfusion. Cases of sexual transmission from travelers to their sexual partners have been reported in the United States and Europe.
The KCDC head said the infectee’s wife will be subject to a genetic test and epidemiological investigation for potential contagion. The man had reportedly had sexual relations with his wife after coming back home.
The first South Korean patient diagnosed with the Zika virus began developing fever and muscle ache from March 16, five days after his return to home country. He started to show rash all over his body and suffer from severe muscle pain beginning March 19.
The patient is now in a clinically complete recovery phase, the KCDC chief said, as his fever subsided and the rash almost disappeared.
The man, who lives in the southeastern port city of Gwangyang in South Jeolla province, is under the second genetic test for confirmation. The test result would come out later in the day.
Epidemiological investigators were dispatched to the Gwangyang city for possible infection to others.
The Zika virus is believed not to be spread by ordinary touches between humans, but the patient will be hospitalized at a nearby hospital for the time being to make more careful medical checkup and clinical observation as he is the first detected case, the KCDC director said.
He said the country’s alert for the Zika virus will not be raised to a”crisis”level from the current “attention”level as it is not transmitted through ordinary contacts.
Possibility, however, is always open for additional Zika cases to be discovered here when considering the size of South Korea’s foreign trade, tourism industry and the number of people in and out of the country, the director noted.
The virus, which has a incubation period of as long as two weeks, is particularly risky for pregnant women as it is thought to be linked to a rare birth defect — microcephaly that causes newborn babies to have unusually small heads and damaged brains.
The KCDC advised pregnant women not to travel to Zika-infected countries, while recommending fertile women delay pregnancy for at least two months after returning from those countries. It also advised people visiting such countries to stop donating blood and use condom for two months after returning home.
The Zika virus was first found in Africa and spread to Asia and Latin America. The virus is spreading especially rapidly in Latin America, while Thailand and the Philippines are the most Zika-infected countries in Asia.
In South Korea, a total of 124 potential cases have been under investigation for Zika infection and among them, only one case has tested positive. Enditem