Guarding the nation’s healthA health scare looms over the country as the nation mourns for the late President Roh Moo-hyun, and there is mounting trepidation following a series of North Korean provocations.
The number of A(H1N1) flu cases has surged in recent days, raising concerns about a possible epidemic in a country hitherto considered safe from the contagion in North America. A group of English teachers, mostly American and Canadian nationals hired by a language institute, were confirmed to have the infection after their arrival in Korea. They breezed through airport quarantine screening and were diagnosed with simple flu-like symptoms after having checkups at the institute’s request. Confirmation of the infection came much later, giving the virus time to spread.
The failure of the airport quarantine system to detect any of these cases is cause for serious concern as summer approaches. A stream of Korean students is expected to return home from highly-infected countries in the coming months. Airport health authorities must enhance its fever detection system. There is also a need for additional airport quarantine personnel.
The nation’s health authorities need to increase the number of diagnostic kits at local health care centers and hospitals so that more timely action can be taken for patients who passed previous screenings.
The public must take responsibility for the health of the community by taking precautions to ensure the nation’s health and hygiene are maintained. We have remained relatively resistant to this new epidemic because people who have contracted the virus have reported their illness quickly, refrained from physical contact with others and otherwise fully cooperated with health authorities. But everyone needs to take extra precautions against the virus by washing their hands and contacting health authorities immediately when flu-like symptoms such as fever or sore throat appear.
On another note, the country is also seeing a steady increase in the number of hepatitis A cases. This is another disease that can be prevented with simple measures such as hand-washing and eating well-cooked food. Many young people may not yet carry the antibody needed to fight a hepatitis infection, so vaccination is also advised. The hepatitis A virus is believed to be most active from May to July.
We should not let our guard down against health threats no matter what.
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