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[Editorial] Quick Action Needed on Swine Flu Threat

Posted April. 27, 2009 04:02,   


A new strain of the swine flu virus that originated in Mexico April 13 has killed 81 people and infected more than 1,300. With the United States reporting confirmed cases of swine flu and Britain and Colombia doing the same, the World Health Organization warns that the virus could erupt into a global pandemic and urged countries to step up preventive measures. Fortunately, no suspected cases have been detected here in Korea yet, but the government’s response is cause for worry.

A meeting of health authorities was held yesterday, a full two weeks after the first outbreak of swine flu was reported in Mexico. The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry belatedly switched to emergency quarantine mode the same day and began urging people to report to health authorities patients having symptoms similar to those of swine flu such as fever and cough. Quarantine inspections on passengers arriving from Mexico and the United States and in-flight announcements urging caution are not enough.

Since swine flu is a respiratory disease contracted from pigs only, only those with a weak immune system are said to develop the disease. Consumers have no need to fear swine flu in Korea in the wake of tightened quarantine inspections on U.S. and Mexican pork imports and the fact that the swine flu virus is killed by cooking. Given the severity of the situation in Mexico, however, thorough measures are needed to block the deadly virus from entering Korea.

When it comes to something directly affecting public health, the importance of meticulous government action cannot be emphasized enough. With more people traveling the world freely, contagious diseases know no national boundaries. Along with heightened surveillance and screening at all points of entry such as airports and harbors, the government must take full advantage of the international data network in real time to stop the swine flu virus from finding its way into Korea.

For its part, the public must help the government by quickly reporting suspicious cases to health authorities. When a bird flu outbreak struck a duck farm in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province, in April last year, the owner reported it to the government several days before he began culling the ducks. This belated report triggered fear among residents in the area since some of the ducks had been distributed in the market. A recurrence of this incident must be prevented at all costs.