Monday, June 1, 2009

Korea Herald news on the most recent swine flu cases

[above: In early May, South Korean health workers disinfect a plane that has just arrived from Chicago.]
This Korea Herald article is essentially the same news as this post yesterday, but I wanted to blog this one for two reasons. First, it appears that the American baby is an ethnic Korean, though that really doesn't change much, just a clarification of that likelihood (?).

Second, I thought this article did a good job of mirroring what's in the Korean press, about how the prospective danger is heavily focused on all people coming in from abroad, especially the thousands of Korean students coming back from overseas.

The article starts by describing the infected Koreans in detail:
The latest cases include a 16-year-old male student who reported himself to a nearby public health center last Thursday after entering the country on Monday and showing symptoms the following day, according to officials.

Another 28-year-old male student was classified as a suspected case after showing symptoms at the airport quarantine while returning home from the United States on Saturday.

A 38-year-old woman and a U.S. national baby, who entered Korea last Monday and Tuesday respectively, were both reported to nearby public health centers last Thursday.
It also shows how the infected Koreans did exactly what the authorities have been asking people to do: report themselves as soon as possible to a facility if they are showing typical flu symptoms.

Though there has been a tendency toward self-medicating when pharmacies were in the business of dispensing loads of medications that were then legally available over the counter, this is offset by a genuine fear of pandemics. For all the play it gets in the K-blogs, kimchi is not thought to be so powerful that a person with symptoms is going to say, "Sure I've got all these things wrong with me, but it can't be swine flu, because I've been eating my kimchi."

If the virus does start spreading widely among people who have not been abroad, there is bound to be, by statistical odds, some who don't do what they're supposed to do, but for now things appear to be going the way public health officials would like.

Anyway, here is the stuff reflecting that the Korean media is not turning this, as some feared, into a "foreigners disease":
"The virus is infiltrating through overseas residents or students who come back home during the summer holidays season," said an official of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the Foreign Ministry, there are at least 154,600 Korean students in the United States, Canada and Japan where the disease continues to spread widely.

Some 6,000 to 6,500 travelers enter the country everyday on direct flights from the United States.
See? No English teachers were harmed in the making of this article. In fact, if any fear is generated by the story, its fear of the returning Koreans:
So far, no cases of infection have been found among those who contacted the four newly confirmed patients, said officials.

Experts, however, warned that the patients may have spread the disease during its incubation period and called for continuous precautions against further outbreaks.
In fact, I think the government is coming up with some good ideas, including keeping potentially sick off of airplanes and allowing people to delay their flights without penalty.
Officials of the Health Ministry and other related departments yesterday met at the Prime Minister's Office to devise countermeasures to the spreading disease.

Overseas students with suspected symptoms of the disease will be recommended to undergo medical treatment before boarding planes home, according to officials.

Students who delay their flight schedule will be exempted of the resulting additional charges, should they use Korean Air or Asiana Airlines.
It would be nice if they could get other airlines to observe similar rules (maybe they do... perhaps reporter 배현정 should check out that possibility and report on it).

There is one aspect of the article that some will see as a sign that this is all a xenophobic "single out the foreigners" conspiracy:
Also, a notice will be sent to schools and language institutes, requesting a one week observation period before foreign instructors who have just arrived in the country start teaching classes.
Well, considering that a large portion of these teachers are coming from a place (the US) which has over half of all confirmed H1N1 cases, and even the ones that aren't from America have been traveling through airports that have become major transit points for the virus, requesting that they hold off on teaching a bunch of kids until they're in the clear from their travels is prudent. In fact, I would insist on it for the time being, rather than merely asking.

But that's just me, and I'm a known hater of E2 visa holders. Ask anybody.

[above: Researchers at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Management in Seoul put reagents into blood samples of possible flu patients to detect the H1N1 influenza virus.]


  1. I don't see why it is such a big deal to hold teachers from America for 7 days under quarantine over swine flu. That was one of the thing I have read much complaining about on the blogs and it seems reasonable to me. If we had a child, I would want the teachers to undergo a health check before being allowed to teach.

  2. Same here. I guess thats the right thing to do. As the old adage says, prevention is better than cure, especially if the cure is nowhere near. Its a trend worldwide, that whenever there is an outbreak of any sort, and governments as well as health agencies will start implementing (strict) guidelines, most people will see only the negative side or hassles of the plan rather than viewing the whole picture the way a civilized person should.


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