Meanwhile, North Korea’s Central News Agency reported Thursday on an outbreak of the “acute enteric epidemic,” without naming the disease or giving a caseload. The term enteric refers to the gastrointestinal tract, and observers said the disease could be an intestinal illness like typhoid and cholera.
The announcement, though concerning, does not necessarily indicate a worsening public health crisis, according to Ahn Kyung-su, from the Seoul-based research center dprkhealth.org.
Waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid were rampant in North Korea before the announcement of the country’s first coronavirus infection. Ahn said the outbreak of intestinal disease is not an uncommon situation given the country’s poor health and sanitary conditions.
“The recent state media reports about the outbreak could be a politically motivated one to demonstrate leader Kim Jong Un’s efforts for his people,” Ahn said.
North Korean state media reported that Kim is distributing medical aid as part of “his noble outlook on devoted service for the people’s well-being.”
Still, the outbreak probably complicates matters for the regime, which is already fighting a coronavirus outbreak amid growing economic woes and a chronic shortage of vaccines and medicines.