Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Threat level raised as H1N1 infections officially cross 1000 mark

So says the Korea Times. This means a shift in how the growing epidemic is being tackled:
The government said Tuesday it was upgrading the level to orange, indicating alarm, from yellow, meaning alert, at a Cabinet meeting. The level is comprised of four steps ― blue (attention), yellow (alert), orange (alarm) and red (serious).

"We are seeing an increasing number of patients'' an official from the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said. "The possibility of mass infection is now growing due to students coming home from overseas study, summer vacation and international events. We concluded that the flu could become a pandemic here in the latter half of this year, with the weather getting colder, so we are hiking the level.''

The current preventive system, which monitors those entering from other nations, will be changed to focus on treatment rather than prevention, it said.

Patients will be isolated at major hospitals nationwide. If the numbers increase, the authorities will isolate only serious patients. Others with minor symptoms will be asked to stay at home and visit hospital for treatment.

The central government will also secure as much vaccine as possible and inoculate infants, children, the elderly, soldiers and quarantine officers from November.

It recommended schools avoid after-hours programs during vacation time and halt them immediately when a patient is confirmed. Private tutoring institutes were also advised to suspend classes when a student is confirmed to have contracted the virus.
As a few in the English-teaching field have mentioned before, hagwons that mix students from a variety of area schools can become nodes of infection, so the authorities should be ready to pounce on them if they have infected students (or teachers). Loss of revenue is an incentive for them to stay open, though the prospect of their school being a Typhoid Mary nexus of a local outbreak could provide a significant disincentive. 

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