N. Korea reports new disease outbreak amid COVID-19 wave

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea reported the outbreak of another infectious disease in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak on Thursday, saying leader Kim Jong Un has donated his private medicines to those affected by the new disease. .

It’s unclear how serious the new epidemic is, but some outside observers say North Korea likely wants to polish Kim’s image as a leader concerned with public livelihoods as he needs more public support to overcome the pandemic-related hardships.

Kim offered backup drugs from his family on Wednesday for those diagnosed with “an acute intestinal epidemic” in the southwestern city of Haeju, the official Korean Central News Agency reported. The North’s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, had a separate front-page photo showing Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju reviewing saline solutions and other drugs they donated.

KCNA did not specify exactly what the epidemic is and how many people are infected.

Some observers say the “a gut epidemic” in North Korea refers to an infectious disease such as typhoid, dysentery or cholera, which are intestinal diseases caused by germs through contaminated food and water or contact with the feces of infected people.

Such diseases are common in North Korea, which lacks proper water treatment facilities and whose public health infrastructure has been largely destroyed since the mid-1990s.

After North Korea reported an increasing number of patients with fever symptoms last month after confessing to the coronavirus outbreak, South Korea’s spy agency said “a significant number” of those fever cases were also people with illnesses such as measles, typhoid and whooping cough. .

“The outbreak of measles or typhoid is not uncommon in North Korea. I think it’s true that there is an infectious disease outbreak there, but North Korea is using it as an opportunity to emphasize that Kim takes care of its people,” said Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, a health website. . problems in North Korea. “So it’s more of a political message than a medical one.”

According to state media reports, Kim already sent his family’s medications to COVID-19 patients last month.

KCNA said more than 4.5 million of the country’s 26 million people have become ill from unknown fevers, but only 73 died. The country has identified only a fraction of those as confirmed coronavirus cases due to an apparent lack of testing kits in the country. Many foreign experts question the North’s death toll, saying it is likely under-reported to protect Kim from political harm.

At a ruling party conference last week, Kim claimed the pandemic situation has passed the “serious crisis” stage. related border closures and UN sanctions.

Later Thursday, the South Korean Unification Ministry renewed its offer of inter-Korean cooperation in health and medical matters. After the North admitted to the COVID-19 outbreak, South Korea and the United States offered humanitarian shipments of vaccines, medical supplies and other aid, but the North has not responded.

Leave a Comment