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North Korea Today No. 315-1 Hot Topics December 2009

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Hot Topics No. 315-1]
Ministry of Public Health Held an Open Meeting of All-members to Prepare Preventive Measures of H1N1
Medical Workers, Take Responsibility and Provide Medical Examinations to People
Jung Tong Pyun and Domestically Produced Aspirins Prohibited
Two H1N1 Cases Reported in Hongwon County
Ministry of Public Health Performs Health Checkups on Elementary School Students Twice a Week
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[Hot Topics No. 315-1]
Ministry of Public Health Held an Open Meeting of All-members to Prepare Preventive Measures of H1N1
On December 7, the Ministry of Public Health held an open meeting of all members at city and county Parties to establish preventive measure of H1N1. Attendees to the open meeting for all members included government officials from public health department, officials of people’s hospitals, heads of the clinics the farmland, and the principles and the vice principles of schools representing all officials from public health and education areas. The meeting was for an open and comprehensive examination of countermeasures against H1N1. In light of the fact that only a small number of authorized personnel attended and discussed the countermeasures against H1N1 in closed door meetings previously, this open meeting is exceptional. A government official indicated two reasons for this. The first is that the government had no choice but to announce the seriousness of current situation to the people because H1N1 has been spreading very rapid since November 2009. Preventive measures in terms of short term prescription are meaningless without cooperation from the people. The second reason cited was that the news of the dispersion of H1N1 in North Korea has been reported outside North Korea already. After the news was broadcasted in South Korea, Foreign Service Employees residing overseas began to inquire about their family, which resulted in commotion in North Korea. Since the news has been widely spread out, the government might have decided to make it public.

Medical Workers, Take Responsibility and Provide Medical Examinations to People
At an all members meeting, officials from education and public health department of city and county raised a big concern that if H1N1 were spread out in times of serious chronic malnutrition caused by great famine, an infectious disease and starvation could sweep the whole country, causing societal chaos." It was ordered in the meeting that as a countermeasure against H1N1, "In this situation, all (medical workers) have to stand up in unity, and take responsibility for the health of the people, and provide thorough medical examinations to the people." In addition, because H1N1 shows the same symptom as a cold in the early stage, they ordered not to use cold medicine without exact diagnosis. They have also decided to instruct the residents not to take medicine at random when they have cold symptoms.

Jung Tong Pyun and Domestically Produced Aspirins Prohibited
The Ministry of Public Health issued a nationwide order prohibiting the use of North Korean aspirin and Chinese Jung Tong Pyun (Chinese made pain reliever and fever reducer). In South Pyongan Province, a series of incidents involving death of H1N1 patients treated with North Korean aspirin and Chinese Jung Tong Pyun was reported. H1N1 patients misdiagnosed as common cold were prescribed cold medicine and children could not be saved when high fever became more serious. However, children who didn't take cold medicine were re-examined and diagnosed as H1N1 and subsequently attempts were made to treat them with other medicine. Even though an immediate treatment could not be given to H1N1, the children could be spared of medical mishaps caused by medicine misuse.

Two H1N1 Cases Reported in Hongwon County
On December 8, 2009, the public health authority of Hongwon county, South Hamgyong Province, announced that two patients were confirmed as H1N1 cases. On the same day, Myungcheon county reported one H1N1 case to the North Hamgyong Provincial Party. At 5:30 pm on that day in North Hamgyong Province, there was an emergency meeting held at the headquarter of the Province Emergency Epidemic Prevention Center. The province government issued an order which requires students not to stay in groups of more than two or three during the winter break and to reinforce inspection of passing of travelers from other provinces. Also the government ordered to prohibit family members who have symptoms of a cold from going out. The city and county emergency epidemic prevention headquarters ordered to devise virus preventive measures that will detect whether people are infected or not.

Ministry of Public Health Performs Health Checkups on Elementary School Students Twice a Week
The Public Health Department of North Hamgyong Province is performing H1N1 related medical examinations on elementary school students twice a week. While schools throughout the country started winter break due to the dispersion of H1N1, elementary schools at Giljoo county and Onsung county began the winter break as well. Although winter breaks are in session, students at these school have to live in the dormitory because they have no parent. The living condition of the dormitory so bad a lot of children are suffering from malnutrition and they are at high risk of being exposed to H1N1 due to their weak immune system. As such, hygiene control workers from the Ministry of Public Health are paying visits to elementary schools and give medical examinations more than twice a week.

Despite the support from the County Party and District Administration Offices, students of those schools are still suffering from hunger and cold weather. Elementary school teachers say, "The biggest concern at this point is not the disease, but the food that can fill up their stomach and winter clothes that can block cold weather." Because the nation's economic situation is bad support to elementary schools has been diminished. Even during cold winter, elementary school students between the first and fourth grades have to wear clothes given by Neighborhood Unit, although the sizes do not fit properly. Most of undergarments are worn out in the areas of elbow and knee. Due to the bad economic condition, the County Party which has been providing support to elementary schools is just encouraging teachers to overcome the difficulties by themselves. During the winter break, teachers cannot teach follow-up classes because of great shortage of notebooks and pencils, let alone textbooks. When this situation was reported to the Province Party, the Education Department of North Hamgyong Province Party ordered county and city teachers to support elementary school students. As a result, each teacher has to submit 10 notebooks, two sharp pencils, and 10 pencils. These school supplies are going to be collected before December 15 and sent to the Province Education Department. However, food shortage problem still remains. A teacher says, "Now elementary school students are getting a small amount of food that will keep them from being starved to death." Elementary school teachers repeatedly stressed that even though they need medicine for H1N1, food is more urgent to elementary school students.

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