North Korea officially refers to swine flu as new influenza, but many in the North call it swine flu because of international media.
The communist country said yesterday that it has no cases of the flu so far, adding it has no reason to hide any flu outbreaks.
Pak Myong Su, in charge of infectious disease control at the Norths Health Ministry, told the Japan-based daily Chosun Shinbo Oct. 14, A weakened health infrastructure doesnt lead to the outbreak of the new flu. If so, this will not undermine our image.
People in the North, however, have shown contradicting responses. A source based in a border area with China said, The claim of no flu outbreak could be true because North Korean medical organizations have no ability to identify the disease.
Clinics there just ask patients about their conditions and take their temperatures, the source said.
With winter approaching, seasonal flu originating from China is reportedly spreading at a rapid pace in the North. Health authorities in Shinuiju are said to be on high alert as an unidentified flu virus immune to cold medicines is spreading.
Pyongyang is known to be doing its utmost to prevent the spread of the flu. North Korean health authorities are encouraging hand washing and quarantines of entire families if one member has a cold. They also recommend brushing one`s teeth with salt.
If a pandemic breaks out, however, the North Korean government cannot adequately protect its people because of poor medical infrastructure and lack of public attention on a cold.
A source well-informed on North Korea said, Many North Koreans treat the cold with Chinese medicine bought at markets instead of getting medical attention because clinics provide no medicine.
They`re used to deadly infectious diseases such as paratyphoid, typhoid and cholera. So its natural for them to pay little attention to new viruses such as avian and swine flu.
In addition, uninformed North Korean officials are reportedly banning merchants from selling pork at markets.