Some observers say the new “enteric epidemic” in North Korea refers to an infectious disease like typhoid, dysentery or cholera, which are illnesses caused by germs via contaminated food and water.
North Korea has reported the eruption of another infectious disease in addition to its ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, saying leader Kim Jong Un has donated his private medicines to those stricken with the new disease.
Kim offered on Wednesday his family’s reserve medicines for those diagnosed with “an acute enteric epidemic” in the southeastern Haeju city, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
The North’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper separately carried a front-page photo showing Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju reviewing saline solutions and other medicines that they were donating.
KCNA didn’t elaborate on exactly what the epidemic is and how many people have been infected.
Some observers say the “an enteric epidemic” in North Korea refers to an infectious disease like typhoid, dysentery or cholera, which are intestinal illnesses caused by germs via contaminated food and water or contact with faeces of infected people.
Such diseases routinely occur in North Korea, which lacks good water treatment facilities and whose public healthcare infrastructure largely remains broken since the mid-1990s.
North Korea last month reported a rising number of patients with feverish symptoms following its admission of the coronavirus outbreak.
South Korea’s spy agency said that “a considerable number” of those fever cases included those sick with diseases like measles, typhoid and pertussis.
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“The outbreak of measles or typhoid isn’t uncommon in North Korea,” said Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, a website focusing on health issues in North Korea.
"I think it’s true there is an outbreak of an infectious disease there but North Korea is using it as an opportunity to emphasise that Kim is caring for his people," Kyung-su added.
“So it’s more like a political message than medical one.”
KCNA said more than 4.5 million out of the country’s 26 million people have fallen ill due to an unidentified fever but only 73 died.
The country has identified only a fraction of those as confirmed coronavirus cases due to an apparent lack of test kits in the country.
Many foreign experts question the North’s death toll, saying that’s likely underreported to prevent Kim from any political damage at home.