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Flu Virus Hits Nation

Posted November. 24, 2002 22:59,   


Influenza virus is sweeping across the country. With the number of flue patients and people suffering from similar symptoms rising rapidly nationwide, hospitals and clinics are busy treating patients.

Some patients are forced to wait for hours before getting treatment and others look for another clinics less crowded as a great number of people visit clinics and hospitals for flu treatment.

The National Health Institute (NHI) on Nov. 23 issued an influenza warning as the number of suspected flu patients reached 4.47 per 1,000 outpatients, surpassing the three patients per thousand needed for a warning.

▽Surge of Flu Patients

Some neighborhood clinics opened on Sunday Nov. 24 as flu patients and their worried families asked them to continue giving treatment. Emergencies rooms in hospitals were also filled with flu patients.

Dr. Choi Won-joon, a pediatrician practicing in Gwanmyung-si, Gyeonggi-do had to treat some 400 outpatients on the day. ˝Of the total, about 70% are estimated to be infected with influenza virus. I have been here for 11 years and this is the first time I see such a large number of flu patients.˝

Nam, a 37-year-old mother living in Shinjeong-dong, Seoul, said she had to find another clinic when she took her fourth-grader daughter to a neighborhood clinic she frequents. Her daughter, suffering from high fever, runny nose and coughing, was finally treated after a one-hour waiting at another clinic.

In line with the growing number of flu patients, the absentee rate in primary schools is also rising. ˝Of about 30 students, 2 or 3 miss class on average and in some cases, the number reaches 5 to 6,˝ said Lee Seong-teak, a teacher at Ansan Primary School in Hongje-dong, Seoul.

Of some 50 children rushed to the emergency room at Samsung Seoul Hospital in Ilwon-dong, Seoul on Nov. 24, 30 were flu and cold patients. ˝With the early arrival of winter season this year, we are seeing a larger number of cold patients and severe symptoms,˝said the hospital.

Some even get infected with flu virus again after they were treated for cold symptoms.

▽ Precautions and Treatment

There are about 100 kinds of cold viruses such as rhino and adeno, and symptoms like sore throat and coughing begin to appear when one of them sticks to epithelial cells in the respiratory tract.

Influenza, however, develops when othomics virus penetrates into lung and such symptoms as high fever, headache, sore eyes and muscular pain continue for 4 to 5 days.

While there is no vaccine or cure for common colds, flu can be prevented through vaccine shots or effectively treated afterwards.

This year, the breakout of flu virus came about three weeks earlier than previous years. All the cases were linked to Panama A-type virus, which can be prevented through vaccine shots. By taking medications, the symptoms can disappear within 1 to 4 days.

NHI said in the warning that people over 65 and others suffering from illnesses such as respiratory diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure are urged to take vaccine shots.

Seong-Ju Lee Sang-Keun Song stein33@donga.com songmoon@donga.com