Dengue Surge As Spread Hits ‘Dizzying Levels’ in South Korea

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday said it had recorded a record uptick in the number of cases of the dengue virus since the start of the school year — mostly in Seoul and other large cities, with much of the focus on the number of primary school-aged children showing symptoms.

The agency said a total of 1,708 cases of the disease had been reported, which was almost three times the amount of infections at this time last year, and surpassed the previous record of 1,270 cases recorded in February 2012.

“Many children are absent from school because of their fever and joint pains,” Kyoung-Eui Park, a spokesperson for the agency, said at a news conference. “We are taking a series of prevention measures to ensure that dengue virus cases don’t increase further.”

Ms. Park said her agency had increased the number of medical staff at schools where the increase in cases had been most acute to curb the spread of the disease.

At large schools in the urban areas of Seoul, which suffers from the biggest cluster of dengue cases in the country, parents, most of whom are highly educated, are letting their children stay home from school.

Many said the high temperature of the summer and humidity in the air was responsible for the increase in cases.

While most schoolchildren who fell ill with dengue fluatitis did not develop dengue fever, others appeared to be in a higher risk category, Ms. Park said.

The health ministry spokesman, Moon Sang-kyun, said all children who fell ill were being taken to hospitals for treatment. The top priority among Seoul’s public schools had been to lower the temperature and ensure that all the kids at an elementary school in Yeouido, near City Hall, were present for their exam on Monday.

The boy and girl student who died of the disease were both primary school students from neighboring Sokcho, Mr. Moon said.

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