중앙데일리

Nation tightens health net to prevent swine flu

Apr 27,2009
With growing fears around the world about swine flu following deaths in Mexico, Korea’s health authorities set up thermal detectors at Incheon International Airport to monitor body temperature of arriving travelers. [YONHAP]

As concerns rose over the spread of swine flu that has claimed the lives of dozens of people in Mexico and sickened at least 11 in the United States, the Korean government said yesterday it would tighten prevention measures.

But the government cautioned against excessive anxiety since Korea has anti-viral medication and the flu is not caused by pork consumption. No case has been reported in Korea.

After chairing an emergency meeting yesterday, Park Young-joon, vice chief of staff at the Prime Minister’s Office, said the government is strengthening prevention of the flu around pig farms across the country and will start checking for swine flu virus on pork imported from the United States, Mexico and their neighboring states.

According to Korea’s National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service, an agency under the Ministry of Agriculture, Korea has imported 22,570 tons of pork from the United States and 70 tons from Mexico over the first three months of 2008.

In Mexico, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said yesterday that since April 13, “there have been 81 registered deaths which are probably linked to the virus, of which only 20 cases have virological checks.”

Cordova added 1,324 patients with flu symptoms were also under observation. There have been 11 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States - in New York City, California and Kansas.

The World Health Organization has warned that swine flu has “pandemic potential.” Its director general, Margaret Chan, called the flu “a public health event of international concern.”

On Saturday, the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued emergency travel alerts, with all passengers returning from the U.S. cities of Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta to be checked for flu symptoms. Visitors to the United States or Mexico within the past week who develop flu symptoms were also advised to get a medical checkup.

According to the government, more than 420,000 passengers from Korea who traveled to the United States and Mexico in the past year.

The swine flu can be treated with anti-viral Tamiflu. Lee Jae-hong, who handles welfare policies at the Prime Minister’s Office, said Korea possesses enough stocks of Tamiflu to treat 2.4 million individuals.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swine flu is “a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza among pigs.”

The CDC’s Web site says human infections with swine flu have occurred among those who come in direct contact with pigs, and human-to-human spread has been documented. Pork consumption, according to the CDC, does not cause swine flu.

The CDC says symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of regular flu, including fever, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose and sore throat.

It urges attention to personal hygiene, especially after coughing and sneezing.

From December 2005 to February 2009, the CDC said it received 12 cases of human infection with swine flu.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]






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