North Korea has dispatched medical teams and epidemiological investigators to a province battling an outbreak of an intestinal illness, state media reported on Sunday.

At least 800 families suffering from what North Korea alone has called an “acute enteric epidemic” have so far received help in South Hwanghae province, some 120 kilometers south of the capital Pyongyang.

Enteric refers to the gastrointestinal tract and South Korean officials say it could be cholera or typhoid.

The new outbreak, first reported last Thursday, puts further pressure on the isolated country as it battles chronic food shortages and a wave of Covid-19 infections.

This Sunday, the state news agency KCNA detailed prevention efforts, which include quarantines, “intensive screening for all residents” and special treatment and monitoring of vulnerable people such as children and the elderly.

A “Rapid Diagnosis and Treatment Team” is working with local health officials and steps are being taken to ensure farming is not disrupted in the key farming area, KCNA said.

Disinfection work, including of sewage and other waste, is underway to ensure the safety of domestic and drinking water, according to the report.

The state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Friday that medicines prepared by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and others, including his sister, will be delivered to families in South Hwanghae province.

It is difficult to independently verify North Korea’s claims due to the lack of press freedom in the country.

Ryu Yong Chol, the official in charge of North Korea’s epidemic emergency work, warned viewers of state television on Monday that enteric diseases could be spread through the belongings, food and drinks of infected people. Strictly isolating patients is important to prevent its spread, he said.

Besides typhoid and cholera, polio virus, hepatitis A virus and dysentery bacillus are among the pathogens that cause enteric diseases, Ryu said.

News of the “enteric epidemic” comes as North Korea continues to battle covid-19, or what it calls “fever cases.”

KCNA reported another 19,310 new fever cases on Sunday, without detailing how many of those patients had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Overall, more than 4.6 million have shown fever symptoms since a Covid-19 outbreak was first recognized in the country in mid-May. As of June 19, KCNA has reported 73 “fever” deaths.

As with North Korea’s “acute enteric epidemic” claims, it is difficult to independently verify the number of cases and recoveries reported by North Korean state media.

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