By HYUNG-JIN KIM – Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Thursday reported an outbreak of another infectious disease in addition to its ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, saying leader Kim Jong Un donated his medicine private to people with the new disease.
The severity of the new outbreak is unclear, but some outside observers say North Korea is likely aiming to burnish Kim’s image as a leader who cares about public livelihoods because he needs a bigger boost. great public support to overcome the difficulties linked to the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Kim offered his family’s reserve medicine to people diagnosed with “an acute enteric epidemic” in the southwestern city of Haeju, the official Korean Central News Agency reported. The North’s leading newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, separately published a front-page photo showing Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju examining saline solutions and other medications they were giving.
KCNA did not specify exactly what the outbreak is and how many people have been infected.
Some observers say that the “enteric epidemic” in North Korea refers to an infectious disease such as typhoid, dysentery or cholera, which are intestinal diseases caused by germs via contaminated food and water or by contact with the feces of infected people.
Such illnesses occur regularly in North Korea, which lacks good water treatment facilities and whose public health infrastructure has remained largely broken since the mid-1990s.
After North Korea last month reported an increasing number of patients with febrile symptoms following its admission of the coronavirus outbreak, South Korea’s spy agency said “a considerable number” of these fever cases included 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 taking this opportunity to emphasize that Kim takes care of his people,” said Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH. ORG, a health-focused website. problems in North Korea. “So it sounds more like a political message than a medical message.”
Last month, Kim already sent her family’s medicine to patients with COVID-19, according to state media.
KCNA said more than 4.5 million of the country’s 26 million people have fallen ill with an unidentified fever, but only 73 have died. The country has only identified a fraction of these as confirmed coronavirus cases due to an apparent lack of testing kits in the country. Many foreign experts question the death toll in the North, saying it is likely underreported to protect Kim from political harm.
At a ruling party conference last week, Kim claimed the pandemic situation had passed the stage of a “serious crisis”. related border closures and UN sanctions.
Later Thursday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry renewed its offer of inter-Korean cooperation on health and medical issues. After the North’s admission of the COVID-19 outbreak, South Korea and the United States offered humanitarian shipments of vaccines, medical supplies and other assistance, but the North did not did not answer.
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