|People line up at an ear, nose and throat clinic in Gyeonggi Province, May 29. Korea Times photo by Ha Sang-yun|
By Lee Hae-rin
Influenza, which typically strikes during winter, has spread at an alarming level in late spring, marking the highest number of patients for a late spring and early summer season.
Health experts and authorities presume eased COVID-19 rules involving face masks and in-person gatherings have caused an influenza surge.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), Sunday, the number of people with symptoms of flu stood at 25.7 per 1,000 outpatients from May 14 to 27. This figure was also the same for the previous week.
It was the highest number seen during that period of the year since September 2000 when the KDCA started collecting related statistics. In previous years, the figure has remained at less than five per 1,000 outpatients. The previous record was seven during May 14 to 27 of 2021.
Also, flu cases normally decline after the peak winter season. But this time, the number peaked at 60.7 in the last week of 2022, declined to 11.6 from Feb. 19 to 25, but bounced back in the spring season.
The younger age groups have been more vulnerable to the flu with 52.8 per 1,000 outpatients aged seven to 12 and 49.5 per 1,000 outpatients aged 13 to 18 being diagnosed.
"The growing spread of flu will continue for a while, due to the increased social interactions following the lifting of COVID-19-related social-distancing measures," Gwack Jin, a senior KDCA official said.
Apart from the flu, acute respiratory infections with symptoms of nasal discharge, headache, phlegm and sore throat are also spreading, the KDCA said.
KDCA collects flu patient information from 196 medical centers across the country and announces related statistics. Those who show symptoms of sudden fevers of over 38 degrees Celsius or higher, coughing and sore throat are classified as suspected cases of influenza.