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(LEAD) All N. Korean H1N1 flu patients cured: WHO

All Headlines 16:39 December 14, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional quotes, Seoul spokesman's remarks to go ahead with aid plan)
By Kim Hyun

SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that all nine North Koreans who were confirmed as having the H1N1 flu virus have recovered, and that no additional cases of the disease have been reported in the country.

"They have all recovered and are doing well," said Suzanne Westman, coordinator of outbreak alert and response at the WHO's New Delhi office, which is monitoring the flu outbreak in North Korea.

The country acknowledged nine cases of the highly infectious disease on Dec. 9, but no additional reports have come out of the country.

Westman said the first of the patients, all school children aged between 11 and 14, was discovered on Nov. 25 and the last case appeared on Dec. 4. Three of the confirmed infections were in Pyongyang, with the remaining six in Sinuiju on the border with China.

"All contacts have been identified, put in isolation and treated," she said over the telephone.

"The very first one has definitely gone home. The later ones, because of the date right now I don't know but all of them have recovered," she said.

With a solid surveillance system and a sufficient number of physicians, North Korea is believed to be able to handle an outbreak of the flu, Westman added.

"They certainly have the capacity to control the influenza," she said, because "they have a good surveillance system in place, have a good primary health network ... and they have a very high number of physicians."

"At this point, there are no influenza cases reported, not as much as we can say."

South Korea's Unification Ministry said it will press ahead with its plan to send Tamiflu and other anti-viral drugs for 500,000 people to the North as a preemptive measure for the winter. Final consultations are underway between the Koreas on terms of the delivery.

"Our policy remains unchanged, that we'd better take actions preemptively because it's now winter and considering North Korean health care conditions," ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said.

Westman said the amount (from the South) would be "more than sufficient" for North Korea's population of 24 million, as "the treatment should be for those who are at risk."

hkim@yna.co.kr
(END)

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