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S. Korea urges citizens to stay calm amid growing pandemic fears

All Headlines 16:27 October 27, 2009

SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's government Tuesday called for its citizens to stay calm against the faster-than-expected spread of Influenza A, saying that it is doing its best to stem the contagious disease despite growing concerns that it could turn into a pandemic.

"The outbreaks of Influenza A are taking place at a fast pace with a daily average of over 4,000 people being confirmed to be infected with the virus," the government said in a joint statement issued after related ministries held an emergency meeting to discuss how to stem the disease.

"Still (you) don't need to worry too much if you trust the government and follow preventive guidelines," according to the statement jointly issued by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, the Prime Minster's Office and the health ministry, the education ministry.

The statement came as concerns are growing that the H1N1 virus seems to be spreading fast in recent weeks, causing dozens of schools to temporarily close and a growing number of workers to remain at home for fear they could transmit the virus to classmates and colleagues.

Health authorities have confirmed that eight people died in connection with the flu on Monday and Tuesday, raising the total casualties tally to 28 since the first death was reported on Aug. 15.

The government tried to assuage public fears that the disease could turn into a national pandemic, saying that it has stockpiled antiviral drugs enough to treat 11 percent of the nation's 49 million population and started to vaccinate people against the diseases on Tuesday.

"Despite its fast spread, its death rate is almost equal or lower than that of seasonal flu," the statement said. "The government is doing whatever it takes to cope better with the current situation as one of its main obligations is to protect the health and life of our people."

The government recommended people belonging to highly-vulnerable groups such as senior citizens avoid public gatherings and urged citizens to immediately report to local clinics and hospitals if they develop flu-like symptoms.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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