Swine flu returns but gov’t has few fears

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Swine flu returns but gov’t has few fears

With winter’s return, a series of cases of H1N1, or swine flu, were confirmed over the weekend in Daejeon and North Gyeongsang areas, but officials say the flu is not a big worry this year.

According to health authorities in Daegu, North Gyeongsang, a student with fever and other symptoms was confirmed Saturday to have H1N1. The Daegu Education Office said the student is recovering.

An elementary school in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, cancelled all classes Friday, a day after one student was confirmed to have swine flu and another 100 students showed suspicious symptoms.

“We made the decision to halt all the classes in an effort to keep students from infecting each other,” an official at the school in Pohang said. “We also circulated official letters warning private teaching institutes to suspend lessons temporarily.”

An elementary school in Daejeon battled swine flu on Friday when 16 students were found to be infected, 14 of them from the same sixth grade class. The school said the students are recovering.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare stressed that swine flu is not a life-threatening disease anymore but a normal flu, and its spread has been curbed since many Koreans got vaccines in 2009.

“The number of confirmed cases this year is only one of tenth of that in 2009,” Gweon Jun-wuk, director of the Bureau of Disease Control Policy at the ministry said. The ministry said it has decided not to call the flu “swine flu,” but just “influenza,” to keep the public from panicking.

Song Hoy-ok, an official at the Daegu Education Office, also said H1N1 is not a disease to dread anymore.

“We got an official order from the Education Ministry on Oct.6 that the virus is not a deadly one threatening state stability anymore so schools don’t have to cancel classes except in a period of mass infection,” Song said.

According to the Health Ministry, at least 12 million people in Korea got flu vaccines last year.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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