On Thursday, North Korea claimed an unnamed intestine epidemic in a rural region, putting the reclusive country under even more hardship as it confronts chronic food shortages and a wave of COVID-19 infections.
On Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent medicines to the western port city of Haeju to aid patients suffering from a “acute enteric epidemic,” according to state news agency KCNA, which did not specify the number of people affected or the condition.
The gastrointestinal tract is referred to as enteric.
“(Kim) emphasised the importance of containing the pandemic as soon as possible by putting in place a well-coordinated plan to quarantine suspected cases and confirming instances through epidemiological examination and scientific tests,” according to KCNA.
The government is investigating the epidemic, which is suspected to be cholera or typhoid, according to a source from South Korea’s Unification Ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs.
The reported epidemic comes as the North deals with its first COVID-19 illness outbreak. Last month, it declared a state of emergency due to a shortage of vaccines and medical supplies.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, South Korea’s spy service notified lawmakers that watery infections like typhoid were already rampant in North Korea.
“Intestinal infections like typhoid and shigellosis aren’t particularly novel in North Korea,” said professor Shin Young-jeon of Hanyang University’s College of Medicine in Seoul. “What’s concerning is that it comes at a time when the country is already dealing with COVID-19.”
Another official at the unification ministry stated that while South Korea is eager to work with the North to combat the disease outbreak, Pyongyang has been unresponsive to any offers for dialogue, including Seoul’s earlier proposal to deliver COVID vaccines.
The primary agricultural region of North Korea, where Haeju is located, is South Hwanghae Province, raising fears about probable consequences for the country’s already critical food shortfall.