Control the flu epidemicInfluenza is going around at the same time the country is struggling to combat the epidemic of bird flu. Health authorities are to be blamed for the spread of the flu just as much as for the lax response to contain the highly pathogenic avian influenza that has led to the slaughtering of 25 million poultry. They have obviously learned nothing even after the poor handling of the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak last year.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Protection, out of every 1,000 hospital visitors, 61.8 were flu patients during the third week of December, close to the 64.3 during a serious flu outbreak in February 2014. Amongst those aged 7 to 18, flu patients made up 153 out of 1,000, the highest number since the government began keeping watch of flu patients in 1997.
In 229 schools in Gwangju, flu patients surged by more than 10-fold in a month to top 3,000. Vaccines have gone short in North Chungcheong and southern regions.
Even after student-aged patient growth passed last year’s average in November, the health authority only issued a warning when the number hit 107.7 earlier this month. It did not consider that minors are more vulnerable to influenza. It did not bother to separately watch student patients and aggressively alert the public of influenza spread.
Experts believe influenza would be active until March. Patients usually break out a month after the warning. They advise it is not too late to get a vaccination now as a new type of influenza could be bred once the old one is contained.
Health authorities must consider closing schools earlier than planned, keeping a close watch on every age group, and making sure vaccination supplies are sufficient. Public health should be of the utmost priority regardless of how preoccupied politics is with the impeachment crisis.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 26, Page 34