N.Korea reports another outbreak of infectious disease in fight against COVID

N.Korea reports another outbreak of infectious disease in fight against COVID

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea on Thursday reported an outbreak of an unidentified enteric epidemic, potentially putting additional strain on the isolated country’s healthcare system battling an unprecedented wave of COVID-19.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday sent medicines to the western port city of Haeju to help patients suffering from the “acute enteric epidemic” as soon as possible, according to North Korean state-run media KCNA.

It did not specify the number of people affected or explain what the disease was, but enteric refers to the gastrointestinal tract.

“(Kim) stressed the need to contain the epidemic at the earliest opportunity by taking a well-designed measure of quarantining suspected cases to thoroughly contain their spread and confirming cases through epidemiological investigations and scientific testing,” KCNA said.

The reported outbreak comes as the North battles its first outbreak of COVID-19 infections. It declared a state of emergency last month amid concerns about a shortage of vaccines and medical supplies.

North Korea on Thursday reported 26,010 more people with fever symptoms, bringing the total number of fever patients registered nationwide since late April to nearly 4.56 million. The death toll linked to the outbreak stands at 73.

Pyongyang has announced the number of fever patients daily, not COVID patients who appear to lack testing kits. Experts also suspect underreporting in government-controlled media published figures.

The North has said the COVID wave has shown signs of abating, but the World Health Organization earlier this month cast doubt on Pyongyang’s claims and said it believes the situation is worsening.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)