Infectious diseases plague N. Korean city: source


Four infectious diseases have stricken a North Korean city on the east coast, affecting up to 4,000 people, a source claimed Monday.

“Chongjin is overrun by scarlet fever, typhoid, typhus and paratyphoid. About 3,000 to 4,000 are suffering from the diseases,” the source said, asking to remain anonymous.

The source reported the infected people are mostly under 40 years of age. North Korean health authorities have halted railway operations to prevent the spread of disease and have imposed travel bans.

“When scarlet fever erupted late last year, North Korean authorities also imposed travel bans across the country,” the source added.

Good Neighbors International, a South Korean civic organization which provides aid to North Korea, confirmed that the rapid spread of disease in the North has resulted in school closings and travel bans.

Another source also claimed that Chongjin has only one hospital equipped with 150 beds in each district, but about 600-700 patients are seeking treatment in one district.

Last Thursday, South Korea’s unification minister said the government will not provide any medical aid to North Korea to help stem the spread of scarlet fever in the communist country.

But a South Korean civic group already shipped 36 types of medicine such as penicillin and antibiotics, worth approximately US$5 million, to the impoverished North.

Last month, the Join Together Society, a humanitarian aid group in Seoul, shipped a total of 400,000 injectable doses of penicillin to the North.

Scarlet fever is not an intrinsically serious communicable disease, but if not treated properly it can become as serious as cholera or typhoid.


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