DPRK acknowledges spread of swine flu

UPDATE:  According to AFP:

South Korea is preparing to ship medical supplies worth more than 15 million dollars to help North Korea fight an outbreak of swine flu, officials said Monday.

The unification ministry, which handles cross-border ties, said the shipment would include antiviral drugs for 500,000 patients — Tamiflu for 400,000 and Relenza for 100,000 — and sanitation supplies.

The aid will cost an estimated 17.8 billion won (15.3 million dollars), which will be financed by a state fund for inter-Korean cooperation, it said.

Spokesman Chun Hae-Sung said Seoul would send the shipment as soon as possible, and definitely by the end of the year. But the North, which had accepted the offer, had not yet set a firm date.

The drugs shipment will be the first direct South Korean government aid since relations soured last year, although Seoul has funded assistance to Pyongyang through private groups.

North Korea Wednesday reported nine cases of (A)H1N1 in the capital Pyongyang and the city of Sinuiju bordering China. No death toll was given.

Observers say the virus could pose a particular threat to the North because of malnutrition amid persistent food shortages and a lack of drugs such as Tamiflu.

Good Friends, a Seoul-based welfare group with cross-border contacts, quoted an unidentified Sinuiju city official as saying more than 40 people had died of the swine flu in the border city alone.

The World Health Organization, however, told Yonhap news agency that all nine North Korean patients have recovered.

Yonhap quoted Suzanne Westman, coordinator of outbreak alert and response at the WHO’s New Delhi office, as saying no additional cases were reported in the isolated communist country.

The first of the patients, all children aged between 11 and 14, was discovered on November 25 and the last case on December 4, she said, adding that three of the infections were in Pyongyang with the other six in Sinuiju.

“All contacts have been identified, put in isolation and treated,” she told Yonhap, adding that North Korea had a solid surveillance system and a sufficient number of physicians is believed to be able to handle the outbreak.

ORIGINAL POST: According to KCNA:

Anti-A/H1N1 Flu Campaign Intensified

Pyongyang, December 9 (KCNA) — New Influenza A/H1N1 broke out in some areas of the DPRK amid the growing of its victims worldwide.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, nine cases were reported from Sinuiju and Pyongyang.

The relevant organ is further perfecting the quarantine system against the spread of this flu virus while properly carrying on the prevention and medical treatment.

The State Emergency Anti-epidemic Committee has taken steps to enhance the role of prevention and treatment centers at all levels and increased checkup stations across the country while directing efforts to the medical treatment of its cases.

According to Yonhap:

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working “closely” with the North Korean government to help stem the spread of an Influenza A outbreak there and assess the scope of flu infections among North Koreans, a WHO spokesperson said Wednesday.

North Korea said earlier in the day that it has confirmed nine domestic cases of H1N1 virus infections. The highly infectious disease may be particularly dangerous to the North Korean people, who are mostly undernourished and may have weakened immune systems.

“We are working closely with the (North Korean) government to see what is required and if they need any assistance from WHO,” Aphaluck Bhapiasevi, a WHO spokeswoman on the H1N1 pandemic, said over the telephone.

Bhapiasevi also said there are likely more cases of the H1N1 virus than announced, as people who have mild symptoms are not tested.

“In any country, there may be more cases than have been laboratory-confirmed,” she said. “They may not reflect actual number of the cases.”

In May, WHO provided 35,000 Tamiflu tablets each for North Korea and about 70 other underdeveloped countries to help fight possible outbreaks. Seoul officials say the North would need millions of tablets to safeguard its 24 million people.

Through its office in North Korea, the world health body has been making “preliminary assessments” of the scope of the outbreak, she said. “We have been discussing support that would be required.”

According to the AP, the DPRK will accept ROK assistance as well:

North Korea agreed Thursday to accept medicine from South Korea to fight an outbreak of swine flu, a Cabinet minister said, in a development that could improve relations between the nations after a deadly maritime clash.

“Today, the North expressed its intention to receive” the medical aid, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek told reporters.

North Korean state media reported Wednesday that there were nine confirmed swine flu cases in the country. South Korea plans to send the antiviral Tamiflu to the North, Health Ministry spokesman Lee Dong-uk said, without giving specifics.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said South Korea plans to send enough doses of Tamiflu for about 10,000 people. It cited a government official it did not identify.

The move came two days after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak offered unconditional aid to North Korea to help contain the virus — the government’s first offer of humanitarian aid since Lee took office in early 2008 with a hard-line policy toward the North.

(h/t NK Leadership Watch)

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