The number of swine flu patients in Korea is expected to exceed 600, as 29 additional cases of the H1N1 virus were confirmed yesterday.
Thirteen students at an elementary school in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, had caught the virus earlier this week, prompting the school to start summer vacation early.
Kwon Joon-wook, the head of the epidemiology department at the Korea Centers for Disease Control, said, Just like at the Bucheon elementary school, a group of patients could be formed in many parts of the country.
A group of patients refers to a group infection outbreak (secondary infection) in a community with the infection channel.
Members of Koreas first group infection had never been overseas or contacted confirmed virus carriers. Those who contacted carriers also got infected in large numbers.
In Japan, the number of swine flu patients has soared since community infection began in May.
Unlike Japan, elementary, middle and high schools in Korea have started summer vacation, and as Influenza A is likely to grow weak in summer, it can be controlled, Kwon said.
If groups of patients continue to develop the disease, we will take drastic measures by recommending that cram schools and camps close as well as schools stop summer classes and camps stop running programs.
Park Seung-cheol, the chairman of a government committee for a swine flu taskforce, said, More groups of patients could develop the disease, but given that general influenza infects 10 percent of the population, it is not very worrisome. Now we must focus on treating patients rather than preventive measures.
Jeon Byeong-yeol, head of the infectious disease center at the Korea Centers for Disease Control, said, We are treating patients to prevent severe symptoms or death while taking thorough quarantine measures. If you develop swine flu-like symptoms after returning from a foreign country, you must report to authorities immediately.
Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Minister Jeon Jae-hee, who is visiting the United States, signed a memorandum of understanding that allows both countries to share information and treatment technologies on swine flu with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in Washington.
Accordingly, when a new strain of swine flu occurs, the two countries can start developing vaccines immediately since they will share data on the strain right away.