The number of people sickened by the highly virulent flu virus, called Acute Respiratory Syncytial Virus, has spiked to 3,023 in the Republic of Korea, the highest infection rate on record, health officials said Wednesday.
Arctic air from a cold front spread across the peninsula overnight, warming South Korea and putting it on track to surpass the previous seasonal high of 2,719 cases in 2003, according to South Korea’s Health Ministry.
The virus, often referred to as Covid-19, is particularly active among children and is linked to pneumonia, not influenza. But that doesn’t mean the flu season has passed.
The arrival of the virus this season was exacerbated by the absence of a good flu vaccine, officials said.
Many people also are contracting the virus at holiday gatherings, doctors said. More than 80% of South Korean adults living in homes with children have been infected with the virus, according to officials. About 70% of infections were in children ages 0 to 5, according to state-run Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Korea hasn’t always had a bad flu season this year, officials said. Last year, infections fell for three weeks, but this season’s rise caught some people off guard.