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Hot weather increases risk of summer diseases

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Published : 2014-06-19 21:10
Updated : 2014-06-19 21:10

The summer has arrived early in Korea this year, as the weather has been unusually warm in June.

While it offers more opportunities for outdoor activities and sports, the warm weather also increases the prevalence of summer diseases.

The Health Ministry says it is particularly important to be aware of illnesses such as eye infections and mosquito-borne diseases, as well as food-borne illnesses.

The best way to avoid eye infections and food-borne diseases is to wash your hands properly and regularly. 
The risk of contracting malaria or Japanese encephalitis increases in the summer. (123RF)

Some of the most dangerous summer illnesses are mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria and Japanese encephalitis.

Among the two, malaria is one of the best known mosquito-borne infectious diseases. Its symptoms include fever, headache and vomiting, which in severe cases can progress to a coma or death.

It is transmitted by a bite from an infected mosquito. The parasites multiply in the liver first, and then infect the patient’s red blood cells.

Most cases of malaria in South Korea occur near the Demilitarized Zone along the inter-Korean border. The disease was in fact completely eliminated in South Korea in the 1970s but resurfaced again in 1993. South Korean health experts concluded that the disease’s reemergence in the country was caused by infected mosquitoes from North Korea.

South Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week designated a total of 114 regions in northern Gyeonggi and northern Gangwon provinces, as well as Incheon ― all close to the border with North Korea ― as malaria danger zones.

Meanwhile, Japanese encephalitis is often mistaken for the flu, as the virus causes either no symptoms or mild, short-lived symptoms. Initial symptoms of the infection may include diarrhea, muscle pain and fever.

In some cases, the initial symptoms may be followed by more serious symptoms later, such as paralysis, changes in mental state and inability to speak.

There is no specific treatment for Japanese encephalitis, so it is important to be vaccinated and avoid mosquitoes as much as possible. Domestic pigs are also known to carry the virus.

“It is important to make sure you don’t get bitten by mosquitoes, when you visit areas with Mosquito-borne diseases,” said the Health Ministry in a statement. “Wear long pants and long sleeves. Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin. See a doctor before you visit those places, and take preventive medicine for malaria.”

Food-borne illnesses, better known as food poisoning, increase during the summer as bacteria and viruses grow faster in the warm and humid weather. Most food-borne bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli, can multiply in food to large numbers in the summer months.

The symptoms of food-borne diseases include severe vomiting and diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and chills.

In order to prevent the diseases, it is important to ensure food is cooked throughly, the Health Ministry said.

“Cook food thoroughly, especially meat and seafood,” the ministry said. “Make sure to wash your hands before you start cooking.”

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)

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