The health officials of North and South Korea are battling with the outbreak of two strains of influenza ahead of the Winter Olympics touted to take place in Pyeongchang, Seoul, on Feb. 9, 2018.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Red Cross Society (DPRK RCS), with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), determined between December 2017 and January 2018, North Korea has reported over 126,000 suspected influenza cases.

The IFRC met with the World Health Organization (WHO) officials on Jan. 24 to brief them about the influenza outbreak in the region. In the report submitted by the IFRC, the officials mentioned that so far at least 81000 confirmed influenza cases were documented in the region. According to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), four individuals have reportedly died as a result of the flu, including an adult and three kids under the age of five.

South Korean national flag A giant sized South Korean national flag is carried over spectators during an event in support of Pyeongchang's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo: Reuters

The rapid progression of the outbreak is the major cause for concern for people dwelling in Pyongyang where around 28.7 percent of the cases were documented.

According to the MoPH, 31,010 Influenza cases were among children aged 0-7 years, 22.8 percent (n= 28,858) were among children 8-16 years and the rest 52.7 percent (n= 66,706), were among those who were above 17 years of age.

The numbers were significantly higher when compared to the 1,250 confirmed cases of both A and B influenza cases documented in South Korea, CNN reported.

The DPRK RCS, in its report, said: “The government has requested support for influenza vaccination targeting high-risk individuals with the MoPH specifically requesting 30,000 Oseltamivir tablets for healthcare workers.”

“WHO has so far dispatched 5,000 tablets with 30,000 in the pipeline to distribute to frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable groups,” it added.

Ahead of the Winter Olympics in South Korea a deadly strain of flu virus had led to warnings from health officials, CNN reported.

The outbreak of H5N6 — a highly contagious strand of bird flu — was reported at chicken farms near Seoul.

According to CNN, South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said that it confirmed a "highly pathogenic strain of H5N6 avian influenza" on a chicken farm in Pyeongtaek in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.

The ministry added that so far 16 cases of avian influenza have been confirmed on poultry farms, although the symptoms have not been reported in humans. The outbreak ahead of the Olympics has led the government to quarantine the farms where the virus was found. The concerned authorities also initiated an inspection of the nearby regions as a precautionary measure.

Although the number of influenza cases reported in humans in South Korea remains low, experts suspect the illness could sweep through the healthy population in the region.

"The populations are very separate and they don't interact much,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University told CNN.

"Influenza may only be starting up naturally in South Korea, but it is possible that some people traveling from North Korea could augment that by bringing the virus with them," he added.