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North Korea reports ‘epidemic’ of unidentified intestinal disease after Covid wave

By Yoonjung Seo and Gawon Bae, CNN, and Reuters

North Korea has dispatched medical crews and epidemiological investigators to a province battling the outbreak of an intestinal disease, state media reported on Sunday.

At least 800 families suffering from what North Korea has only called an “acute enteric epidemic” have received aid so far in South Hwanghae Province, about 75 miles south of the capital Pyongyang.

Enteric refers to the gastrointestinal tract and South Korean officials say it may be cholera or typhoid.

The new outbreak, first reported on Thursday, puts further strain on the isolated country as it battles chronic food shortages and a wave of Covid-19 infections.

On Sunday, state news agency KCNA detailed prevention efforts, including quarantines, “intensive screening for all residents,” and special treatment and monitoring of vulnerable people such as children and the elderly.

A national “Rapid Diagnosis and Treatment Team” is working with local health officials, and measures are being taken to ensure that farming is not disrupted in the key agricultural area, KCNA said.

Disinfection work is being carried out, including of sewage and other waste, to ensure the safety of drinking and household water, the report said.

State newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Friday said medicines prepared by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and others, including his sister, would be delivered to families in South Hwanghae Province.

It is difficult to independently verify North Korea’s claims due to a lack of free press in the country.

Ryu Yong Chol, the official in charge of emergency epidemic work in North Korea, warned viewers on state television Monday that enteric diseases could spread though infected people’s belongings, food and drinks. Strictly isolating patients is important to prevent its spread, he said.

Apart from typhoid and cholera, the polio virus, hepatitis A virus, and dysentery bacillus are among the pathogens that cause enteric diseases, Ryu said.

News of the “enteric epidemic” comes as North Korea continues to battle Covid-19, or what it calls “fevered cases.”

KCNA reported another 19,310 new fever cases on Sunday, without detailing how many of those patients had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Overall more than 4.6 million have shown fever symptoms since a Covid outbreak was first acknowledged in mid-May. As of June 19, 73 “fever” deaths have been reported by KCNA.

As with North Korean claims of the “acute enteric epidemic,” it is difficult to independently verify the case numbers and recoveries reported by North Korean state media.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Asia/Pacific

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