Thursday, August 27, 2009

H1N1 will become an epidemic in Korea that will see a revolution in hygiene awareness, and Koreans staying home when they're sick

I posted about this topic here where I predicted that all schools in Korea will be closed for 10 days this September or October due to mass infections in the general population.

Today in the Korea Times I saw two articles.

Korea Confirms Third Death From Influenza A

It seems like the media is finally realizing that the virus is here in the general Korean population, "The man is known to have neither travelled to a foreign country recently nor been in contact with other H1N1 carriers. It is presumed that he caught the disease from local community activities, the second victim to have picked up the virus locally."

I'll be very curious to see what happens WHEN, not "If the number of patients and deaths rise significantly, the government plans to declare a national emergency."

I'd really love to see a massive public awareness campaign about proper hand washing with soap procedures done on TV, and also about covering one's nose and mouth when coughing and then washing afterwards too . . . but I don't know if that's going to happen, and if it does it will likely be too little too late.

Flu Death Toll Will Be 20,000 in Worst Case

"According to data prepared jointly by the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs and other ministries, the government estimates that flu patients will reach 100,000-150,000 among which 10,000-20,000 might die. Rep. Choi Young-hee of the opposition Democratic Party released the data."

Those kinds of numbers seem low to me . . . I really hope I'm wrong.

"Vaccines are likely to be available only after mid-November at the earliest, while flu infections are expected to peak in October and November in line with the onset of cooler weather."

I think things will peak in October. Students from MULTIPLE SCHOOLS attend hogwans. If only ONE is sick he/she can infect all the other students who then return to their multiple schools and so on and so forth . . .

I can't see how the government or any other agency can regulate and enforce hygiene and health policies in all the different places that need supervision, advice, information, and motivation to do what needs to be done to lower the numbers of people who will get sick.

Perhaps even more difficult to regulate are the parents who still go to work when they're sick, and still send their kids to school when they're sick too. The culture of work no matter what condition you're in may be about to go extinct--one can only hope that the transition will be mildly painful, and that the cost is not too high.

I think Korea is going to see a revolution in hygiene awareness, and Koreans staying home when they're sick instead of going to work and school, and a more educated awareness of how viruses are spread in the next few months.

I just hope that the death toll is not as high as predicted by the government, and that the economy doesn't suffer too much either.

Not much else to say other than I really hope that Korea makes it through this quickly and with as little pain as possible, and that the economy doesn't nosedive . . .


Update: Saw these articles in a Google search.

Schools delay semester over H1N1

"Due to growing concerns over the rapidly spreading H1N1 flu virus, some schools have decided to delay the start of the new semester, scheduled for yesterday, to prevent possible mass infections among students . . ."

Preparation and Prevention Are Keys to Controlling H1N1 Virus

"More than 200 new H1N1 virus infections are being reported every day in Korea. As of Tuesday, 46 elementary, middle and high schools have decided to either delay the start of the school term or close down temporarily because of fears over its spread . . ."

". . . Yet we must remain vigilant and implement thorough precautionary measures. The virus is not particularly lethal, but it is highly contagious. In a worst-case scenario, an H1N1 pandemic in Korea could result in 10 million infections and 10,000 deaths, said Shin Young-soo, the World Health Organization's regional director for the Western Pacific. And it could begin spreading more quickly as colder weather sets in . . ."

"Last week, the government designated 455 hospitals around the country as flu treatment centers, but they are in a state of confusion as they lack proper isolation facilities. They are also complaining that the government has simply dumped heavy responsibilities on them without providing any support in terms of medicine or diagnostic equipment. And many hospitals and clinics are said to be reluctant to treat H1N1 patients for fear of losing other customers." (my italics, my bold)

SEOUL, Aug 27, 2009 (AFP) - All South Korean elementary and secondary schoolchildren will have their temperature checked daily to combat the spread of swine flu, officials said Thursday.

The education ministry said all schools were instructed to strengthen their fight against the A(H1N1) virus when the month-long summer break ends this week.

"Teachers with digital thermometers will check the body temperature of all students at the school gates every morning," a spokesman told AFP.

Schools were also told to sterilise classrooms daily and refrain from organising group activities.

South Korea has reported more than 3,300 cases of swine flu, including 926 students. On Thursday the health ministry reported its third death, an elderly man who had been taken to hospital Monday with pneumonia-like symptoms.

The ministry said 46 schools have closed or delayed opening for the autumn term.

South Korea has enough Tamiflu to treat 5.3 million people, about 10 percent of the population. It will secure the treatment for more than 10 million by the end of the year.

The government will push to prioritise elementary and secondary school students when a vaccine becomes available later this year.

Vaccines against swine flu are not yet available on the market as they are still undergoing clinical trials.


Anonymous said...

Four people dead is not a pandemic. You're being worked by pharmaceutical marketing:

Jason said...


No. I'm 'being worked by' what I've seen over the last four and a half years in Korea, and the gross lack of awareness about how to wash your hands; the gross lack of soap in school bathrooms and the proper use of it if it was there; also, how I think this will impact a lot of older Koreans who have pre-existing health conditions that will make getting H1N1 a more serious problem . . and the list goes on.

Time will tell who is right about this . . .

Anonymous said...

Where I work there are already posters up (in English mind you and perhaps only where the international staff work) about hygiene in the workplace/public. It says something about Clean, Care, Caution ... there's one more, but I can't remember it.

I was speaking with a coworker who said that the whole peninsula has been bought out of hand sanitizer and that it'll be a few more weeks until the next nation wide shipment is brought in. So although that won't change the number of women that I see NOT washing their hands in public restrooms, at least they're panicked enough to get that stuff -- which is actually not as beneficial as washing your hands with simple soap and water.

Anonymous said...

That should have read "we are being worked".

There are far fewer cases of Swine Flu than regular/normal/no-name flu. It's not an endemic or pandemic. It's sales pitch.

Gross lack of awareness about how to wash your hands, and how often (very)isn't particular to Korea.

Yes, flu can kill old people with compromised health. And no, the vaccine will not help. They've spent millions already marketing, and far less on the science of research and testing.

BMJ isn't the only medical journal to be blowing the alarm on this. Take a tour.

Anonymous said...

"(...) the internationally recognized Cochrane Collaboration (which accepts no money from the pharmaceutical industry) did a systematic review of all high-quality randomized trials (25 in all) studying influenza vaccination. They concluded that “the evidence does not support universal immunization of healthy adults.” Period.

So how does this information help us to think clearly about the current flu pandemic in which we're mired?

Well, it seems that despite its spread, this flu virus is a bit of a dud for the fear-mongers. If, as seems not unlikely, the H1N1 virus mutates, our government will have purchased enormous quantities of a flu vaccine around which we will have virtually no safety or effectiveness data, and an already existing and very costly stockpile of probably useless drugs."

Very decent blog, by the way.