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S Korea on alert after confirming suspected case of swine flu
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20:18, April 28, 2009

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The South Korean government raised its health alert level and further heightened quarantine measures against swine flu on Tuesday after confirming the nation's first patient suspected of swine flu.

1ST CASE OF SUSPECTED SWINE FLU INFECTION

The state-run Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said on Tuesday afternoon that a 51-year-old woman was found positive on the type-A influenza test.

The KCDC, accordingly, classified the woman as an 'assumed patient,' one-notch higher than a 'suspected patient.'

An assumed patient refers to a person showing a positive result on the type-A influenza test, according to South Korea's health authorities.

The South Korean government has sent the patient to an isolation ward and will further conduct a final test and report the case to the U.S. health authorities to get a confirmation, which may take up to one week, the KDCD said.

The patient is one of the three South Koreans who showed similar symptoms of swine flu after returning from a trip to Mexico, with the other two found negative on the preliminary test.

SOUTH KOREAN GOVERNMENT ON ALERT

The South Korean government on Tuesday raised its health alert level by one notch to "Yellow" from the previous "Blue," the lowest level in the nation's four-tier disaster alert system, amid growing concerns on swine flu spread in the nation.

The Yellow level is activated when a suspected or confirmed case of transmittable disease is reported.

The South Korean military also raised its alert against swine flu, ordering that any soldier suspected of showing flu symptoms be reported to them immediately.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting on the swine flu in the afternoon and demanded the authorities to brief all information related to the swine flu to the public while taking efficient measures against the epidemic disease.

The South Korean government began to brace for the outbreak of swine flu by declaring on Sunday to tighten quarantine measures for pork from the United States and Mexico, which had been confirmed of swine influenza outbreaks by the World Health Organization.

In addition, the government stepped up its procedures against the outbreak of swine flu by designating it as an infectious livestock disease, which would allow authorities to destroy and bury the sick animals and compensate farmers if the outbreak is spotted in the country.

The government began to conduct inspections of the belongings of tourists who have traveled to the U.S. and Mexico, from Monday.

MARKET JITTERS

Concerns over swine flu influenza affected the economic sector as well, with both pork prices and sales falling and stock prices of related industries stirring.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced on Tuesday that the price for a 110-kg pig fell to 352,000 won (260 U.S. dollars) on Monday, down 19,000 won (14 U.S. dollars) from last weekend.

Local retailers, such as E-mart, Homeplus, and Lotte Mart, also reported that pork sales on Monday showed a drop of 5.1 percent, 8.0 percent, and 4.2 percent, respectively, from a week before.

In the Seoul bourse, poultry and fishery industry-related shares soared, while air carrier shares were dragged on reduced air travel demand.

Stock market winners also included pharmaceutical and biotech firms that manufacture drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools.

Despite the current jitters, local experts said South Korea should stand still on the swine flu concerns as the nation is well-structured in the emergency preventive system, local media reported.

The stir in the Seoul bourse is also expected to calm down in a near future as it did in the past with the case of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), local media said.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Korea International Trade Association predicted on Tuesday that tourism, livestock and exports will be affected by the outbreak of swine flu. Travel agencies reported cancellations of overseas trips, with trade likely to contract if the epidemic continues to spread, it said.

In response to the market unrest, the South Korean government set up a joint taskforce on Tuesday to closely monitor the latest developments in the spread of the swine flu and seek measures to prevent drastic drop of domestic consumption and business activity.

Source: Xinhua



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