North Korea plagued by epidemic of infectious diseases amid COVID fight

Leader Kim Jong Un sent drugs to the western port city of Haeju on Wednesday to help patients suffering from an “acute enteric epidemic,” the state-run KCNA news agency was quoted as saying by Reuters. The number of people affected by this disease has not been specified.

“(Kim) stressed the need to control the epidemic as soon as possible, taking a well-coveted measure to quarantine suspicious cases to limit its spread, confirming cases by epidemiological examination and scientific tests,” said KCNA.

The reported outbreak comes as the North faces its first outbreak of COVID-19 infections. A state of emergency was declared last month amid concerns about a lack of vaccines and medical supplies.

South Korea’s intelligence agency has previously told lawmakers that waterborne diseases, such as typhoid fever, were already spreading in the country before the coronavirus epidemic was announced.

“Intestinal diseases, such as typhoid and shigellosis, are not particularly new in North Korea, but what is worrying is that it is coming at a time when the country is already battling COVID-19,” said Professor Shin Young. -jeon from Hanyang University College of Medicine in Seoul.

South Korea is willing to cooperate with the North to deal with the epidemic, but Pyongyang remains insensitive to any offer of dialogue, including Seoul’s previous proposal to provide COVID vaccines, a South Korean Unification Ministry official said. deals with inter-Korean affairs, which has refused to deny its identity.

In addition, South Hwanghae Province, home to Haeju City, is a key agricultural region in North Korea, raising concerns about the possible impact on the country’s already severe food shortage caused by drought.

While the possibility of unspecified disease spreading through crops seems slim, the key will be to disinfect water supply sources, as it may be transmitted through water, said Eom Joong-sik, an infectious disease expert at the Center. Gachon Gil University Medical Center.

Pyongyang has announced the number of patients with fever on a daily basis, without specifying whether they are patients with COVID, apparently due to a lack of test kits. Experts also suspect an underreporting of government-controlled media figures.

North Korea reported a further 26,010 people with symptoms of fever on Thursday, bringing the total number of fever patients across the country since the end of April to 4.56 million. The death toll from the epidemic is 73.

The North has said that the COVID wave has shown signs of waning, but the World Health Organization has questioned Pyongyang’s claims earlier this month, saying it believes the situation is getting worse.

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