A case of paratyphoid fever in Wiwon County, Chagang Province, in mid-April sparked local concern about a potential COVID-19 outbreak, even leading to the closure of the area’s markets, Daily NK has learned. 

“A woman in her late 30s, who had been delivering snacks to children for the Day of the Sun [Kim Il Sung’s birthday on April 15], suddenly exhibited signs of fever and anemia and collapsed,” a Chagang Province-based source told Daily NK on May 21. 

“The local disease control authorities disinfected the homes of all nearby homes,” continued the source. “The people who had worked with the woman in the days leading up to the incident – making lists of children’s names to hand out the snacks, for example – were really worried.” 

The anxiety seems to have stemmed from the fact that the woman in question had exhibited signs of fever and many assumed that she may have been infected with COVID-19. 

This anxiety was palpable in the official response to the woman’s illness. The woman was placed into a quarantine facility and she received daily visits by a doctor to check her condition. Local authorities also reportedly shut down local markets and parking lots for servi-cha (buses for transporting people and goods) along with other places with heavy foot traffic. Local disease control officials also reportedly disinfected all areas where the woman had walked around.

Local health authorities eventually concluded, however, that the woman had fallen ill with parathyroid fever – not COVID-19. 

“The woman had been feverish and suffered from diarrhea for a couple days, according to other locals,” the source explained. “Investigators concluded that she had fallen ill because of overwork due to her responsibilities providing snacks to children. Health officials diagnosed her with parathyroid fever given that she has long suffered from diarrhea during the springtime.” 

The woman spent over 10 days in the quarantine facility but was recently discharged and has since recovered, the source said.

*Translated by Violet Kim

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.