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Hundreds fall ill in N Korea with unidentified disease amid Covid-19 outbreak

North Korea announced its first coronavirus cases last month and activated a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system,” with leader Kim Jong Un putting himself at the front and center of the government’s response.

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Pyongyang: North Korean officials said Friday that hundreds of families have fallen ill with an unidentified intestinal disease, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Arab News reported.

North Korea announced its first coronavirus cases last month and activated a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system,” with leader Kim Jong Un putting himself at the front and center of the government’s response.

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Even then, the virus spread through the unvaccinated population of 25 million, with more than 4.5 million cases of “fever” and 73 deaths to date, according to figures published by state media.

But even while the Covid pandemic was reeling in the country, the official KCNA this week announced a new “acute enteric epidemic” which had broken out in South Hwanghae province.

Kim has urged his officials to “contain the epidemic at the earliest date possible.”

According to reports around 1,600 people have been infected with the enteric disease, sparking speculations that the unspecified disease may be cholera or typhoid.

This could very well worsen the country’s chronic food shortages, as South Hwanghae province is one of the North’s main agricultural regions.

Experts have warned of a major public health emergency in the North, which has one of the world’s worst medical care systems, should Covid spread.

North Korea has poorly equipped hospitals, few intensive care units and no Covid treatment drugs or mass testing capability.

Seoul is willing to assist the North in handling the new outbreak should Pyongyang wish to accept it, the official said.

However, Pyongyang has not officially responded to the offer.

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