Hundreds of families in North Korea have become ill with an undiagnosed intestinal ailment, adding to the strain on a disintegrating healthcare system already strained by COVID-19.
Last month, Pyongyang reported the first coronavirus cases and triggered a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system,” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un putting himself at the forefront of the government’s reaction.
According to official media, the new virus has ravaged the unvaccinated population of 25 million people, causing more than 4.5 million cases of “fever” and 73 deaths to date.
Adding to the country’s troubles, the official KCNA claimed this week that a new “acute enteric epidemic” had broken out in South Hwanghae province, with Kim asking officials to “contain the outbreak as soon as possible.”
Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, was reportedly one of a group of high officials who personally gave medicine to attempt to help.
The medicine will be distributed to “nearly 800 households affected by the acute outbreak that has erupted in several sections of South Hwanghae Province,” according to state news agency KCNA.
At least 1,600 people have been infected with the gastrointestinal disease, according to the number.
According to the reports, the unidentified sickness could be cholera or typhoid.
Because South Hwanghae province is one of the country’s primary agricultural regions, if confirmed, the epidemic might exacerbate the country’s chronic food shortages.
Experts had warned that if COVID spreads, it might cause a huge public health crisis in the North, which is reputed to have one of the poorest medical systems in the world.
According to reports, the impoverished country has ill-equipped hospitals, a scarcity of intensive care units, and no COVID therapy medications or mass testing capability.
According to the Yonhap news agency, an official from Seoul’s unification ministry warned, “With the North’s considerably antiquated medical infrastructure, an acute bowel sickness could flare up at any time.”
“Should Pyongyang accept it, Seoul is willing to assist the North in dealing with the fresh epidemic,” the official said.
South Korea had earlier volunteered to provide vaccinations and other medical supplies to North Korea to aid in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.