North Korea reports outbreak of unidentified new illness

North Korea has announced an outbreak of a mysterious intestinal sickness, adding to its COVID-19 woes.

North Korea has reported an outbreak of an unidentified intestinal illness, exacerbating the health situation in a country already under pressure due to the spread of Covid-19.

Quarantine and aid sent

According to the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, has ordered quarantine measures be implemented. It said, as reported by Al Jazeera:

(Kim) stressed the need to contain the epidemic at the earliest date possible by taking a well-knit measure to quarantine the suspected cases to thoroughly curb its spread, confirming cases through epidemiological examination and scientific tests.

KCNA said Jong-un and other senior officials have prepared aid to send to 800 families suffering from the 'acute enteric epidemic' in the country’s southwest. It said, as reported by Reuters:

The officials ... prepared medicines, foodstuff and daily necessities needed for the treatment of the epidemic and stable life to render aid to the people in Haeju City and Kangryong County (of South Hwanghae Province).

Jong-un could be seen in a photograph preparing to send medicines to the port city of Haeju in South Hwanghae province to assist with the outbreak.

KCNA added that Jong-un has called upon officials to 'to fulfil their duty in the work for easing the people's misfortune and sufferings as soon as possible.'

It did not reveal what exactly the disease is, but enteric refers to the gastrointestinal tract.

Suspected to be cholera or typhoid

On Thursday 16 June, an official at South Korea's Unification Ministry managing inter-Korean affairs told Reuters that Seoul is monitoring the outbreak, which is believed to be cholera or typhoid.

Health experts state that waterborne diseases, such as typhoid, are already common in North Korea, the problem is the timing of this latest outbreak. Professor Shin Young-jeon at Hanyang University’s College of Medicine in Seoul said:

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.

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