North Korean defector discovered to have ‘monumental parasites’

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Parasites like tapeworms (file pic) can dwell inside folks’s digestive tracts

A North Korean soldier who was shot fleeing throughout the border had a particularly excessive degree of parasites in his intestines, his docs say.

The defector crossed the demilitarised zone on Monday, however was shot a number of occasions by North Korean border guards.

Doctors say the affected person is secure – however “an enormous number” of worms in his physique are contaminating his wounds and making his scenario worse.

His situation is badumed to provide a uncommon perception into life in North Korea.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 20 years as a physician”, South Korean physician Lee Cook-Jong informed journalists, explaining the longest worm faraway from the affected person’s intestines was 27cm (11in) lengthy.

How do you get a parasite?

Humans can get parasites by consuming contaminated meals, by being bitten by an insect or by the parasite coming into by the pores and skin.

In the case of the North Korean defector, the primary case is most definitely. Parasites coming into the physique through contaminated meals are sometimes worms.

The North nonetheless makes use of human faeces as fertilisers. If these faeces are untreated and fertilise greens which might be later eaten raw, the parasites get into the mouth after which the intestines of the particular person.

While some do not trigger any extreme signs, others might be life threatening, explains Prof Peter Preiser from the School of Biological Sciences at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“What they all do is take nutrients away from your body,” he informed the BBC. “So [even] if most of them might go unnoticed, they all indicate a poor health status. To put it simply: people who have parasites are not healthy.”

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The soldier was rushed to hospital on Monday

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What does it inform us about N Korea’s well being care?

“North Korea is a very poor country and like any other poor country it has serious health problems,” Prof Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in Seoul informed the BBC.

But Mr Lankov factors out that in comparison with different nations with an badogous per capita earnings – like Bangladesh as an example or many African nations – the inhabitants in North Korea is loads more healthy than one would anticipate. The nation’s life expectancy is nicely above common contemplating the extent of financial poverty, he says.

“North Korea does not have the resources to have a modern medical system,” he says. “Its doctors are relatively poorly trained and have to work with primitive equipment.”

Yet on condition that there are comparatively many docs, the nation does handle to carry out reasonably nicely in its dire financial scenario, he argues.

Are the parasites endangering the soldier?

Yes. Parasites will not be an amazing factor to start with however given he’s already in a essential situation, they’re making a nasty scenario a lot worse.

The soldier was shot at the very least six occasions when North Korean border guards opened fireplace on him, as he ran throughout the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, to the South Korean facet.

The younger soldier was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in South Korea and has undergone emergency surgical procedure.

Doctors say his wounds are critical – and there’s a extreme contamination of the injuries by each parasites and faeces.

“We are paying close attention to prevent possible complications,” Surgeon Lee Cook-jong informed reporters, explaining that “an enormous number of parasites” together with roundworms had been discovered within the small gut.

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Surgeon Lee Cook-jong mentioned he’d by no means seen that many parasites

If the intestines are disrupted and parasites are launched into the physique cavity, they could be a lot extra harmful and way more sophisticated to deal with.

Also, he’s more likely to have had the parasites for a very long time. This means “that patient will generally be in a weaker state so any wounds and surgery will become more dangerous,” explains Mr Preiser.

Is this an issue specific to North Korea?

Parasites, particularly worms, are regarded as widespread in North Korea.

However, in addition they have an effect on many creating nations the place diets embrace raw greens fertilised with faeces.

While there are methods to deal with faeces so it may be used as a secure fertiliser, many poor nations neglect to take action.

In the present scenario in North Korea, “this seems to be a sort of neglect here – and one that’s been discussed for years,” says Mr Lankov.

The poor well being and diet has widespread penalties “but North Korea does not admit this because they fear this will affect their image too much.”

Should there ever be a reunification of the 2 Koreas although, there can be huge well being issues for officers to cope with for many years to come back, Mr Lankov warns.

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