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[Newsmaker] Self-care essential to combating MERS

MERS control tower outlines instructions to prevent disease’s spread

Hammered over lax quarantine, the Health Ministry’s Middle East respiratory syndrome control tower belatedly released the details of must-know facts to prevent the spread of the dangerous disease on Sunday.

The disease had claimed the lives of five by Sunday since the first carrier was diagnosed on April 20, according to the government report. The Health Ministry also reported 14 fresh cases of the disease, raising the toll of carriers to 64.

For the past three weeks, online communities and social network services have seen an overflow of spooky photos of the suspected-carriers of the MERS virus, being carried away by “men in white,” the medical personnel in astronaut-like protective suits.

Amid wild guesses about the disease spreading quickly nationwide, the Health Ministry detailed several must-know facts about the alien disease to slow down its spread. 

KTX officials sterilize the inside of a train in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, in an effort to prevent the spread of MERS on Friday. (Yonhap)
KTX officials sterilize the inside of a train in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, in an effort to prevent the spread of MERS on Friday. (Yonhap)

MERS is a highly contagious respiratory disease, caused by a coronavirus. The key symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Initial signs of MERS are detectible from at least two to 14 days after the initial infection. The disease is not contagious until the symptoms emerge, according to the Health Ministry.

As MERS can spread through coughs or sneezes, mostly within at least 2 meters in distance, health authorities have urged the public to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing.

Washing hands with soap is the top priority for all, infected or not, the authorities added.

The ministry also advised avoiding physical contact with people with signs of fever or cough.

The ministry urged people who have been exposed at least once to a patient or suspected patient of MERS to call a health center and seclude themselves at home for self-guided quarantine, “for the sake of their family members and the community.”

Those who have had direct physical contact with the virus carrier or have visited Middle Eastern countries, the origin of the disease, within the past 14 days must seek a doctor to check for possible infection.

MERS-infected patients are to be put in quarantine for intensive care. Critical cases require breathing machines and hemodialysis.

Suspected patients are released from medical centers only if they do not show signs of fever or other known symptoms of MERS for 48 hours and their blood test turns out negative two consecutive times.

The Healthy Ministry also called on all medical staff to wash their hands and wear disposable gowns and gloves, N95 medical masks and protective goggles when they treat the patients and suspected patients of MERS.

On the sidelines of the fact sheet, Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan additionally disclosed the names of the hospitals at a press conference Sunday.

By Chung Joo-won (joowonc@heraldcorp.com)
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