A fever outbreak in Taehongdan County, Ryanggang Province, has sparked fears of the spread of COVID-19 in the area, Daily NK has learned.
“There were an increasing number of people who had body temperatures of 38 to 40 degrees Celsius in Taehongdan County,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on Friday. “On Apr. 27 the situation got very serious, with 21 deaths.”
“I can’t verify how many more of these yolbyong patients there were after Apr. 27,” continued the source. “But I have been hearing that there have been an increasing number of patients suffering from an illness of an unknown cause.”
In North Korea, yolbyong (열병) is a blanket term referring to all illnesses accompanied by a fever. Typically, North Koreans describe any illness with a fever of 37.5 degrees Celsius and above and lasting for two to three days as yolbyong. Yolbyong are typically caused by viral or bacterial infections.
“The authorities are calling them simple cases of yolbyong, but medicines used to treat fevers are having no effect,” the source said.
“The public health authorities in Ryanggang Province are alarmed by the spread of the illness, but there have been no appropriate countermeasures taken [by the authorities] as of yet,” he added.
The failure of conventional anti-fever medication against the illness suggests that the fevers might be caused by a new type of viral or bacterial infection.
Rumors have reportedly spread quickly among locals that the fevers are due to COVID-19 given that Taehongdan County is near North Korea’s border with China.
“Taehongdan County sees a lot of smugglers cross over the border into China because it’s so close to China,” the source said. “That’s why people are thinking the illness is due to COVID-19.”
According to the source, locals believe that COVID-19 may have entered Taehongdan County through smugglers who disregarded the closure of the Sino-North Korean border.
“All travel into and out of Taehongdan County has been restricted,” the source said, adding, “This has restricted both goods and people from entering or leaving the area.”
North Korea continues to maintain that there are no COVID-19 cases within the country.
Daily NK, however, continues to receive reports of suspected outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country.
Daily NK reported on Apr. 23 that a North Korean who attempted to defect over the Sino-North Korean border tested positive for COVID-19 in a Chinese hospital.
*Translated by Violet Kim
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