North Korea Today No. 318 - Hot Topics December 2009

News and Press Release
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N1H1 Upgraded to 'Urgent Matter No. 11'

The North Korean Security Authorities have upgraded N1H1 to 'urgent matter number 11' and are concentrating on preventive and treatment measures. In North Korea, patients who need treatment the most urgently are classified as urgent matter no. 11. For instance, casualties during the Korean War and those wounded in the 2002 West Coast Sea Battle have been treated as 'urgent matter no. 11' cases. A medical official in Pyungsung, South Pyungan Province says, "During the Korean War 'urgent matter number 11' patients were treated as the first priority. At that time, any vehicle could be stopped any time when there was a patient. Regardless of the status of passenger in the vehicle, whether it is the leading secretary of the party or anybody in high status, the person in charge of the vehicle was obligated to provide transportation for the patient. Those who violate this rule could receive administrative penalties as well as criminal charges. Classifying N1H1 as 'urgent matter no. 11' attests to the significance of the disease that needs to be taken very seriously." He added that doctors are keeping themselves busy everyday because of the increase in the number of patients, death, and the cases of relapse.

In Pyungyang, the majority of confirmed cases are in Pyungchun district, and deaths among middle school students are on the rise. At Sinuiju Medical School in North Pyungan Province, medical officials and medical professors have convened a series of meetings regarding N1H1. The purpose of the meetings was to discuss measures for treatment as the death toll from the flu increases throughout the nation. A professor who attended the meeting said the doctors are very concerned about the report that, "Currently, the death toll from the flu is increasing very rapidly and even the treated patients are having relapses. As such, it is classified as 'urgent matter no. 11' and we're conducting epidemiological investigations everyday." Doctors in the city of Sinuiju are also making rounds to every household to conduct medical checkups.

One Child and Two Middle School Students Died in Pyungsung

A medical official in Pyungsung, South Pyungan Province reported that one child and two middle school students died of N1H1 as of December since November 20. He added that those who died were among the confirmed cases of 3 elementary school students and 7 middle school students, but they died during the treatment. Parents of the deceased students claimed that their children did not receive proper treatment and said, "Although we tried everything we could do, the doctors said they had no medicine to prescribe to treat the patients." Kim Chul-ryong (alias) said, "The only thing the doctors did was conducting epidemiological investigations of the virus and trying to quarantine the patients. They could not approach the places where the patients were perhaps because they were afraid of being infected by the virus."

N1H1 Breaks Out at a Naval Base in Ongjin County

A nineteen-year-old navy soldier was diagnosed as having N1H1 at a naval base in Ongjin County, South Hwanghae Province. The infection was confirmed after two health officials from the Ongjin town epidemic control agency in Ongjin County examined him. The naval base ceased all training and isolated the patient. All the soldiers who came in contact with the patient were also quarantined in order to closely monitor any further outbreaks of the epidemic.

Doctors and Nurses also Infected with N1H1 in Sinuiju

At Sinuiju City Hospital in North Pyongan Province, doctors and nurses who came in contact with N1H1 patients were reported to be infected by the same flu. Currently, the confirmed cases among the medical staff are two doctors and four nurses. The medical authorities are becoming increasingly concerned since medical personnel are not safe from infection in the midst of rising death toll. On December 18th, an elder died from N1H1. On the 20th, a 27-year-old woman became unconscious and remained in critical condition. A doctor from the Province Hospital said that currently in Sinuiju, children between the ages of three and eight have the highest death rate from N1H1, and the next vulnerable group is the elderly. Above all, the doctor expressed concern that many of the patients who received treatment relapsed into N1H1, which would increase the death toll.

Visitation Banned at All Reeducation Centers due to N1H1

On December 5th, the Re-education Bureau in the People's Safety Agency banned visitation at all labor reeducation centers due to N1H1. Families and relatives had to leave the food and items prepared for the inmate to the officer on duty and leave the place without seeing the person they came to visit.