North Korea Is Fighting Another Disease Outbreak

Experts believe it's cholera or typhoid
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2022 8:10 AM CDT
North Korea Is Fighting Another Disease Outbreak
A health official of Pyongyang Kim Jong Suk Textile Mill disinfects the floor of a work place in Pyongyang, North Korea Friday, June 10, 2022.   (AP Photo/Cha Song Ho)

(Newser) – North Korea is battling another disease along with a COVID-19 outbreak—but in true North Korea style, the country is not being forthcoming about how many people are affected or exactly what disease is involved. The official Korea Central News Agency says Kim Jong Un has sent medicine to help the city of Haeju deal with an "acute enteric epidemic." Enteric refers to disease of the gastrointestinal tract and South Korea suspects the outbreak is cholera or typhoid, reports Reuters. Dysentery also routinely occurs in North Korea.

Haeju is in the country's main agricultural region and analysts warn that a severe outbreak there could hit the food supply when the country is already in crisis. "Intestinal diseases such as typhoid and shigellosis are not particularly new in North Korea but what's troubling is that it comes at a time when the country is already struggling from COVID-19," professor Shin Young-jeon at Hanyang University's College of Medicine in Seoul tells Reuters. North Korea, which has rejected offers of vaccine from other countries, recently claimed that the COVID outbreak was past the crisis stage, though experts believe it is worsening and the country's report of 73 deaths from "fever" is an undercount.

Some analysts believe the KCNA announcement of the disease outbreak in Haeju was more of a political message than a medical one, since it stressed that the leader had donated medicine from what the state-run news agency described as his private reserves, the AP reports. South Korea says Pyongyang has not responded to offers to help fight the outbreak. (Read more North Korea stories.)

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