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(LEAD) N. Korea confirms H1N1 outbreak

All Headlines 08:29 December 09, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with KCNA English language report, background)
By Kim Hyun

SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Wednesday it has domestic cases of Influenza A, confirming foreign reports of a possible outbreak of the disease there.

"New Influenza A/H1N1 broke out in some areas of the DPRK amid the growing of [the disease's] victims worldwide," the North's Korean Central News Agency said. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

Nine people have been confirmed to have the new flu virus in Sinuiju, a northern town bordering China, and in the capital, Pyongyang, the report said, citing the Ministry of Public Health. Its State Emergency Anti-epidemic Committee has taken actions to stem the pandemic and enhance medical treatment for patients, the report said.

"The relevant organ is further perfecting the quarantine system against the spread of this flu virus while properly carrying on the prevention and medical treatment," the report said.

The first official confirmation by the North of domestic H1N1 cases comes a day after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak ordered his government to help North Korea deal with a possible outbreak of the virus, saying it could do serious damage throughout the impoverished state.

Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group, said in its Monday bulletin that about a dozen people have died from the disease in North Korea. Schools started winter vacation a month early on Dec. 4 due to the rapid spread of disease, the aid group said, citing sources inside North Korea.

Seoul's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, was considering sending a message to North Korea to discuss the aid measures, such as shipments of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu and other medicine.

During previous pandemics, such as the avian flu outbreak in 2004, the isolated North promptly called for international help.


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