Flu rapidly spreading among students in S. Korea

The number of primary and secondary school students with the influenza virus has reached an all-time high, health authorities said Tuesday, while the country's education ministry is instructing schools to consider starting winter vacation earlier than scheduled in an effort to stop the spread of the contagious yet not deadly virus, from the Yonhap.

The number of flu patients from elementary, middle and high schools per 1,000 came to 152.2 from Dec. 11-17, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The ratio is the highest since the KCDC adopted an influenza monitoring system in 1997.

An epidemic watch is declared when the ratio surpasses 8.9 out of 1,000 people, the authorities said.

"The total number of flu patients also reached 61.4 per 1,000 people," said Jeong Ki-Seok, the KCDC chief.

Health authorities said they are discussing with education authorities whether to start the winter vacation early, without disclosing further details about the date.

"For the past six years, flu warnings had been issued during (winter) vacations. However, the flu is spreading quickly this time before the beginning of the vacation," said Jeong, adding that the H3N2 influenza virus is not deadly.

The KCDC said the H3N2 virus does not cause serious complications, such as pneumonia, if treated well, urging more people to protect themselves by being vaccinated and taking anti-viral drugs, such as Tamiflu.

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