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Outbreak of Influenza A affects over 80,000 in N. Korea

Posted January. 30, 2018 07:20,   

Updated January. 30, 2018 08:29


An outbreak of Influenza A in North Korea has killed four people, including three children, and has affected over 80,000 since last December. A recent foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Gangwon Province near the Civilian Control Line followed by the outbreak of the flu has increased calls for strict preventative measures against the epidemics during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and an inter-Korean cultural event.

Voice of America (VOA), a U.S. government-funded international news source, reported Sunday (local time) that there were 126,574 suspected influenza cases between December last year and January 16, and of those 81,640 cases were confirmed as Influenza A according to a report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Rodong Sinmun, a daily newspaper published by the North's ruling Workers' Party, ran an article titled, “A new influenza virus and preventative measures against it” Sunday but stopped short of reporting the damage in North Korea.

The Influenza A spreading in North Korea is the same epidemic that has attacked South Korea. It is viewed as a serious epidemic in North Korea as the country lacks vaccines and medicines to treat the disease. According to VOA, the World Health Organization (WHO) provided North Korea with vaccines and 35,000 tablets of antiviral medication called Oseltamivir upon the North’s request. Reportedly, 5,000 tablets have arrived in North Korea so far.

Some are concerned about the possibility of a widespread epidemic as North Korean athletes and performers will soon visit South Korea for the Olympics. Experts, however, believe that there is no need to worry too much because there are enough medicines and vaccines available in South Korea. “Back in 2009, there was a widespread epidemic of Influenza A at home and abroad. The chances that the influenza will be widespread again are very low as most Koreans are immune to the virus,” said Cho Yong-kyun, professor of the infectious disease department at Gachon University of Medicine. To prevent the outbreak of the virus, the South Korean government has installed thermal sensors at all routes, through which North Korean athletes will enter.

Influenza A can cause respiratory symptoms, such as throat inflammation, sore throat, and cough accompanied by high fever, headaches and muscle aches. “If athletes are found to run a fever, we will ask them questions about their conditions first and prescribe Tamiflu if necessary after notifying it to their team and the Olympic Committee,” said Park Ki-joon, chief of the Infectious Disease Control Department at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Na-Ri Shin journari@donga.com · Jin-Han Lee likeday@donga.com