So, unless you have been living under a rock, you must have heard about the current situation here in Korea to do with MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). Seemingly being portrayed as an epidemic of grand proportions by the media, today I am going to tell you the facts.
First, we should start with some facts. From the last news I heard, Korea is not having an epidemic. The current figures (correct as of the 8th June 2015) are that there have been 6 confirmed deaths, 87 actual cases, 1,632 suspected cases and there are around 2,508 people in quarantine of one kind or another.
Or, to put it another way, the news has been scaremongering and sensationalising the extent of the outbreak. MERS itself has only been around (well, known) for three years. The first cases occurred in Saudi Arabia back in 2012. Currently, there is no known cure and the World Health Organisation estimate that around 36% of people who contact the disease die. The victims of the disease tend to be very young, very old or very sick. So my advice would be don’t panic.
With basic sanitation measures, the disease should not spread quickly. But that is perhaps where Korea falters. For example, the washing of hands here (from my experience) is rare (especially amongst older men). People will cough or sneeze and not cover their mouth. Mostly older men tend to spit into the street after hocking up some spit. An emergency message has been sent out urging people to wash their hands, wear face masks and practice basic things like covering their mouth when they cough. Oddly, they have also said to limit contact with camels and avoid camel meat (although where you could find camel meat here remains a mystery).
The camel based paranoia stems from Patient 0 having been riding some camels in Saudi Arabia (where he is believed to have contracted the disease). As a result, camels in zoos have been quarantined too (and presumably have no idea what is going on).
The reason the disease was spread was because the man who first got the disease, noticing he did not feel well, decided to visit 3 different hospitals (and thus endangering everyone there) and did not mention to doctors he had been to Saudi Arabia. This was done for reasons only known to him (I mean, why visit 3 different hospitals?).
As I mentioned above, an emergency message was sent out telling people to practice basic hygiene. Such a thing is seemingly so rare here that they Government felt the need to tell people that they must do this to prevent the disease spreading. In my opinion, one of the reasons that the disease spread so far and fast was because of a lack of these basic habits in everyday life.
Overall, I am not too worried about the disease, and you shouldn’t be either. It is very rare that you will catch the disease if you stay away from infected hospitals and practice simple basic hygiene. In other words, do as Bill Bailey does.
Until next time, dear reader