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2nd Infantry Division soldiers try some local dumplings and rice balls at a market on Friday in Dongducheon. Experts with the 18th Medical Command are warning the U.S. military community to be especially careful eating and drinking off base as the largest food-borne illness outbreak in Korean history races across the peninsula.

2nd Infantry Division soldiers try some local dumplings and rice balls at a market on Friday in Dongducheon. Experts with the 18th Medical Command are warning the U.S. military community to be especially careful eating and drinking off base as the largest food-borne illness outbreak in Korean history races across the peninsula. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

SEOUL — Preventive health experts with the 18th Medical Command are warning the U.S. military community to be especially careful eating and drinking off base as the largest food-borne illness outbreak in Korean history races across the peninsula.

Lt. Col. Hee-choon Lee, a preventive medicine consultant for the medical command, said that a food-borne virus has sickened school children across South Korea. Lee said authorities believe unsanitary conditions and outdated raw food provided by a contracted company are believed to have been the culprit in the outbreak.

But Lee said another bacterial outbreak killed a person who ate raw fish this week.

“My message to the USFK community is to either cook it, boil it, kill it yourself or forget it,” he said of eating in local restaurants. “Observe safe food and beverage consumption practices.”

Order drinks that come in bottles or cans, he said, and drink with a straw. Avoid pouring the drinks into a glass of ice provided by the restaurant, he said.

Safe eating and drinking habits should be practiced at home as well, Lee said.

“Wash your hands, especially if you’re … cooking for family members,” he said. He suggested keeping cutting boards clean so meat remnants don’t contaminate vegetables or fruit.

Lee said he’s not aware of any U.S. Forces Korea personnel being hit with the recent outbreaks, and he said the hospital hasn’t seen an increase in gastrointestinal cases.


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