So has it been in 2009. Initially called 'swine flu', Korea has taken to calling it 'new flu'--though of course each year's strain is new--and reminding everyone about hand washing, covering one's mouth, and staying away from crowds. Even cancelling some popular events to slow the spread. Despite these efforts, the new flu has been gaining ground.
Mr Hwang informed me on Monday during our walk to school that Young-il got its first case over the weekend, and today three more were added to the rolls of the infected--still, they are otherwise healthy teenage boys, and so I don't fret for their lives. The virus has caused 29 deaths in Korea as of the latest news reports, almost all from the most susceptible demographic groups: the very old, the very young, the already compromised. Is it crass for the more firm-bodied to take heart in this?
President Lee was in the news today for visiting new H1N1 patients, though he has not been inoculated along with the priority groups, saying "he can wait his turn." Good for him ... I hope.
The first round of Tamiflu has become available at hospitals and drug stores, as of yesterday. Today I walked past Hongik Hospital in Mok-dong to see a veritable triage system in place outside. The government plans to vaccinate 35% of the 49 million people in the country. First, you target the health care workers ...
But, back to Young-il, my high school. I read with interest this story: Doctors urge gov't to close schools to curb flu in the Herald tonight.
In a statement released in downtown Seoul, the Korean Medical Association claimed there is a pressing need to shut down schools from next month at the latest.
"Such measures are needed due to the rapid spread of the disease within the general populace and among young school children, and because of the time it will take to complete the ongoing vaccination process," the association said.
It added that the government should keep schools closed for at least two or three weeks.
This brings up a few questions:
- You better pay me anyway!
- If students are away from school, will they remain isolated at home? Or will they congregate at PC bangs and hagwons, as usual?
- The Korean SAT is November 12. They re-route air traffic to minimize distractions during this all-important event, would they really cancel school and/or the SAT?
- What will parents do with their children anyway? Send them to daycare? Hmmm? (Okay, that's three questions.)
- What is the wind-speed velocity of Tamiflu?
- You wear a spankin' new blue muslin face mask every day, but you put your used toilet paper in a trash can rather than flush it down the commode. Huh?
What follows is conservative Dong-A Ilbo's #2 story in today's online version:
Gov`t Statement on H1N1 Flu
Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Minister Jeon Jae-hee looks embarrassed while releasing a public statement following a pan-government meeting on H1N1 flu Tuesday. The statement said, “The H1N1 influenza is spreading fast but if the people trust the government and carefully follow instructions to prevent the disease, the public has no reason to worry too much.”