DPR Korea: Influenza A Outbreak - Information bulletin

This bulletin is being issued for information only and reflects the current situation and details available at this time. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Red Cross Society (DPRK RCS), with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has determined that available information points toward significant humanitarian needs that may require support from the IFRC Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.

The situation

On 19 January 2018 the Vice Minister of Public Health (MoPH) officially informed the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office in Pyongyang of an outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1) stating that between 1 December 2017 and 16 January 2018 there was a total of 126,574 suspected influenza cases – individuals presenting with influenza-like illness. Of these, 81,640 cases were confirmed as Influenza A (H1N1) and as per the Ministry communication there had been four deaths – three children and one adult. According to the Ministry, 24.5 per cent of suspected influenza cases (numbering 31,010) were among children aged 0-7 years, 22.8 per cent (n= 28,858) were among children 8-16 years and the rest 52.7 per cent (n= 66,706), were among those who were above 17 years. The outbreak has become generalized throughout the country with 28.7 per cent of cases in the capital city – Pyongyang. The government has requested support for influenza vaccination targeting high-risk individuals with the MoPH specifically requesting 30,000 Oseltamivir tablets for healthcare workers. WHO has so far dispatched 5,000 tablets with 30,000 in the pipeline to distribute to frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable groups. There is a request to strengthen the nonpharmaceutical aspect of the operation with an emphasis on public health including surveillance and preventive activities with all agencies (WHO, UNICEF) requested to support with conducting an effective communication programme. So far, the outbreak has not been graded as WHO is awaiting further epidemiological information from the MoPH including the age break down of suspected and confirmed cases, number of pregnant women affected and confirmation of the type of influenza.

The current priorities of the government are centered on the need to:

  • Reduce mortality through case management and detection of severe cases with adequate referral systems, prioritizing the vulnerable risk population

  • Vaccinate high-risk groups and healthcare workers o Initiate and bring to scale awareness campaigns focusing on prevention through social distancing, cough etiquette, handwashing and use of personal protection including masks and gloves for healthcare workers and families with a suspected case

  • Monitoring need for measures such as school closures or social distancing based on evidence on a case by case basis

  • Reduce anxiety if any in the population through dissemination of accurate and timely information

  • Review of the epidemiological pattern of flu epidemic this season in northern China to assess any relationship

  • Conduct accurate and timely weekly collection of data.