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WHO 'closely' working with N. Korea to fight H1N1 outbreak

All Headlines 18:59 December 09, 2009

By Kim Hyun

SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) is working "closely" with the North Korean government to help stem the spread of an Influenza A outbreak there and assess the scope of flu infections among North Koreans, a WHO spokesperson said Wednesday.

North Korea said earlier in the day that it has confirmed nine domestic cases of H1N1 virus infections. The highly infectious disease may be particularly dangerous to the North Korean people, who are mostly undernourished and may have weakened immune systems.

"We are working closely with the (North Korean) government to see what is required and if they need any assistance from WHO," Aphaluck Bhapiasevi, a WHO spokeswoman on the H1N1 pandemic, said over the telephone.

Bhapiasevi also said there are likely more cases of the H1N1 virus than announced, as people who have mild symptoms are not tested.

"In any country, there may be more cases than have been laboratory-confirmed," she said. "They may not reflect actual number of the cases."

In May, WHO provided 35,000 Tamiflu tablets each for North Korea and about 70 other underdeveloped countries to help fight possible outbreaks. Seoul officials say the North would need millions of tablets to safeguard its 24 million people.

Through its office in North Korea, the world health body has been making "preliminary assessments" of the scope of the outbreak, she said. "We have been discussing support that would be required."


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