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'Typhoid fever, flu could spread amid hiked exchanges after unification'

'Typhoid fever, flu could spread amid hiked exchanges after unification'

Posted March. 13, 2017 07:54,   

Updated March. 13, 2017 08:06


Typhoid fever and influenza could spread widely when personnel exchanges increase significantly due to Korea reunification or other reasons, since the patterns of disease epidemics in the two Koreas are different for more than 30 years, a new analysis suggests. The Institute for Health and Unification Studies at Seoul National University College of Medicine announced on Sunday that it published “Unification Medicine: Cooperation and Integration of Health and Medicine between the two Koreas,” a textbook that examines and analyzes current situations in the health and medical field.

According to the textbook, the ratio of adults who are suffering from illness among 1,200 North Koreans who defected from the North to the South less than 10 years ago stood at 64.1 percent, 3.4 times that of South Koreans. As the North insisted on free medical service policy even after economic situation deteriorated during the "March of Pain" in the 1990s, health and healthcare infrastructure effectively collapsed. “The number of medical doctors per 1,000 people in North Korea came to 3.3, which is larger than that of South Korea (2.26), but because even hospitals cannot afford to give drug prescriptions due to collapse of the pharmaceutical industry, absolute majority of the people, except power elites who are acquiring drugs directly from overseas, are effectively forced to give up treatment,” the authors say.

The center raised concern that infectious diseases could widely spread unless the two Koreas reunite without proper preparation. Typhoid fever and paratyphoid, which infect few people in South Korea, continue to be endemic in North Korea, and reversely, influenza for which treatment or prescription systems are lacking in the North are in circulation in the South. If personnel exchanges increase significantly with both of the populations reciprocally lacking immune systems for those diseases, the number of patients could increase sharply, the authors say.

Gun-Hee Cho becom@donga.com