A North Korean soldier who defected to the South was found to have Anthrax antibodies in his bloodstream – sparking fears Kim Jong-un is planning to use the disease as a weapon.
The unidentified soldier – believed to have defected from the hermit state in November – would have been exposed to or vaccinated against anthrax before he defected to South Korea, local news reports.
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It comes after a report claimed North Korea is testing biological weapons with the possibility of loading anthrax-laden warheads on its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
‘Anthrax antibodies have been found in the North Korean soldier who defected this year,’ a South Korean intelligence official told local news network Channel A according to UPI.
It is not known who the unnamed defector is, but it has been speculated that it could be a young soldier who was caught on camera running across the border as his comrades shot at him in November.
Oh Chong Song, 24, was shot four times as he made a mad dash for freedom and he has been recovering in a Seoul hospital since.
Song was shot in the knee, arm, back and chest through his shoulder, but despite his serious injuries, the team at the hospital saved his life.
His body was found to be riddled with hepatitis B and parasites, some more than 10 inches long.
It was said to highlight nutrition and hygiene problems that experts say have plagued North Korea for decades.
Earlier this week, Japan’s Asahi newspaper cited another unidentified person connected to South Korean intelligence, who said that North Korea was conducting biological weapons experiments to test the possibility of loading anthrax-laden warheads on its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Asahi report said the US government was aware of the tests, which were meant to determine whether the anthrax bacteria could survive the high temperatures that occur during warheads re-entry from space.
What is Anthrax?
Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It can occur in four forms: skin, lungs, intestinal, and injection.
Symptoms begin between one day and two months after the infection is contracted.
- The skin form presents with a small blister with surrounding swelling that often turns into a painless ulcer with a black center.
- The inhalation form presents with fever, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
- The intestinal form presents with diarrhea which may contain blood, abdominal pains, and nausea and vomiting.
- The injection form presents with fever and an abscess at the site of drug injection.
Globally, at least 2,000 cases occur a year.
Without treatment, the risk of death from skin anthrax is 24 percent.
For intestinal infection, the risk of death is 25 to 75 percent, while respiratory anthrax has a mortality of 50 to 80 percent – even with treatment.
Until the 20th century, anthrax infections killed hundreds of thousands of people and animals each year and is said to have been developed as a weapon by a number of countries.
North Korea vehemently denied the allegation and said it will ‘take revenge’ on the US for saying it is developing biological weapons.
In a statement issued via the state Korean Central News Agency, the regime said it is party to the Biological Weapons Convention and as such ‘maintains its consistent stand to oppose development, manufacture, stockpiling and possession of biological weapons’.
It went on that the more the US ‘clings’ it its anti North Korea stance ‘the more hardened the determination of our entire military personnel and people to take revenge will be’.
North Korea has been hit with increased international sanctions over its missile and nuclear tests this year.
Kim Jong-un called the UN sanctions ‘an act of war’.