HomeWorld NewsNorth Korea faces infectious disease outbreak amid COVID battle

North Korea faces infectious disease outbreak amid COVID battle

A sign depicting a medical goods transport scene is displayed on the empty street amid growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo May 23, 2022. Kyodo by Reuters

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

SEOUL, June 16 (Reuters) – North Korea reported the outbreak of an unidentified intestinal outbreak in an agricultural region on Thursday, further straining the isolated country as it battles chronic food shortages and an unprecedented wave of COVID-19 infections.

Leader Kim Jong Un sent medicine to the western port city of Haeju on Wednesday to help patients suffering from the “acute enteric epidemic”, the official KCNA news agency said, without giving details. the number of people affected or identify the disease.

The term enteric refers to the gastrointestinal tract.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

“(Kim) stressed the need to contain the outbreak as soon as possible by taking a well-coordinated measure to quarantine suspected cases to completely curb its spread, confirming cases through epidemiological examination and scientific testing” , KCNA said.

The reported outbreak comes as the North grapples with its first outbreak of COVID-19 infections. He declared a state of emergency last month amid concerns over a lack of vaccines and medical supplies.

South Korea’s spy agency earlier told lawmakers that waterborne diseases, such as typhoid, were already prevalent in the country before announcing the coronavirus outbreak.

“Intestinal diseases such as typhoid and shigellosis are not particularly new to North Korea, but what is troubling is that they come at a time when the country is already grappling with COVID-19.” , said Professor Shin Young-jeon of Hanyang University College of Medicine in Seoul.

South Korea is willing to cooperate with the North to fight the outbreak, but Pyongyang remains unresponsive to any offers of dialogue, including Seoul’s earlier offer to provide COVID vaccines, a southern ministry official said. Korean unification officer in charge of inter-Korean affairs, who declined to be named.

Adding to the woes, South Hwanghae Province, where the city of Haeju is located, is North Korea’s key agricultural region, raising concerns about the possible impact on the country’s already dire food situation caused by a drought.

Although the possibility of the unspecified disease spreading through crops seems rather low, the key will be to disinfect water supply sources as it is likely to be waterborne, Eom Joong-sik said. an infectious disease expert at Gachon University Gil Medical Center.

Pyongyang announced the number of fever patients daily without specifying them as COVID patients, reportedly due to a lack of testing kits. Experts also suspect under-reporting in figures released by government-controlled media.

North Korea reported an additional 26,010 people with symptoms of fever on Thursday, with the total number of fever patients registered in the country since late April approaching 4.56 million. The death toll from the outbreak is 73.

The North said the COVID surge had shown signs of abating, but the World Health Organization questioned Pyongyang’s claims earlier this month, saying it believed the situation was getting worse. Read more

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Edition by Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Must Read