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MERS: What It’s Like in South Korea

June 21, 2015

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Hi everyone!

So, this MERS thing is getting a bit out of hand. We’re going to address it in this week’s TL;DR, I think, and provide more stats that might put things in perspective, but I thought it’d be a good idea to ask about MERS and how it’s being handled in Korea for this week’s Speaker’s Corner.

I really liked how the first two answers are in opposition. The first one asks about wearing masks, while the next says that we should be wearing masks. What are your thoughts? Do masks help? MERS, after all, isn’t an airborne virus. So what do masks do that prevent you from getting MERS? I’m not really all too sure. I’m not a certifieded doctor. Unless masks prevent people infected by MERS from licking your mouth. The masks will get in the way of that. You’ll be safe from mouth-licking death machines.

More importantly, I agree with the girl that says you shouldn’t cancel your trips. It’s sad, really, that so many people are in a panic and have cancelled their vacations because they’re worried that they’re gonna die. Ah. What a shame. The media hype is definitely bigger than the actual disease.

Anyhow, we’ll talk more about it on Wednesday, stats and comparative perspectives and all. I know some people are more testy about the MERS issue, and will be upset that we’re downplaying it, so we’d love to hear what you think in the comments :D

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MERS: What It’s Like in South Korea

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  1. My boyfriend is a social worker here in Germany.
    He worked in a nursing home and one really old man had MERS. No one told him about the illness and so one day the man opened the door to his room and asked my boyfriend to come in. He was thirsty and wanted some water. So my boyfriend sat beside him and gave him 3 cups of water, because the old man kept asking him for more.
    After the third glass he told the man that it was enough.. well, he kinda said that too late. The old man threw up all the water he just drank. So my boyfriend called for some help.
    His colleagues were shocked and asked him why he went inside that room, so he just explained that the old man wanted water. And everyone freaked out and told him that the man had MERS. He didn’t know what that was since in Germany you don’t really hear about this illness.
    He looked it up at home and freaked out. :D
    Fortunately, nothing happend. He was not infected.
    It really seems like this illness isn’t as contagious as everyone makes it seem.

    3 years ago
  2. I live in an area where there were infected people and there was a lot of fear and panic for a few weeks. I work in a kindergarten and my school shut down to students for 3 days one week then for the whole following week based on the education minister telling them to do so. We’ve been back since last Monday but with about 50% attendance because parents are scared to send their kids. All of this plus the news making it seem bad and my Korean friends feeling very uneasy about it all definitely didn’t make me feel like it was something to brush off. I wore a mask and washed my hands and didnt go in very crowded areas (imcluding avoiding piblic transport) because I was told those were the best precautions. I think my main concerns were not so much about me getting ill but more me transferring it to a student if I did get sick. Their immune system is much less resiliant and that would just be awful. Truth is that I also don’t trust other people when it comes to dealing with their own illnesses. Truth be told Koreans “Dr shop” a lot and bounce around between hospitals and use public transit to do so. If they’re sick the odds of them transferring it is high which is why so many people were in quarantine! Things have calmed down but I think the mistrust in the Korean government since the ferry insident last year added to the ordeal. Plus it seems like they were slow to react once again (just saying this based on conversations I’ve taken part of). As a teacher and foreigner in this country, all I can say is i’ll be glad when this whole thing is over.

    3 years ago
  3. As a student in nursing I can only say that wearing a mask is one of the preventive actions against such a virus. But its not the only action. Don’t shake hands with people who might have this virus (that means you shouldn’t shake anyones hand – just don’t –> in our hospitals here in Germany doctors never shake hands with patients, to avoid transfer of illness). Like the young guy said, please cought into your crook of the arm. Never at someone else. Thats why the mask. It prevents getting something into your mouth. This virus transfers not through air but through droplet-infection and smear-infection.
    Ohh you see its easy, just do what your asked to do ;D. Wear the mask to prevent illness. Schools are really scared because they could loose all their students. The students could transfer because their parents told them its not safe enough to stay at this school xx. Thats my guess. Maybe they just want their students to stay healthy and happy ;-)

    3 years ago
  4. I was in Korea when the MERS news broke out. I really don’t think its a big deal. My friends and family did contact me while I was in Korea and told me to be careful about it. I kind of laughed it off because it didn’t seem like a big deal. The news in Korea didn’t do a very good job in presenting the situation, in my opinion. I even asked the guesthouse manager what his thoughts were on the situation and he said it was not a big deal. He said that Seoul isn’t really effected, especially because they are containing those who are already infected. Plus, the ones passing from the MERS are people who are much older and have a tougher time fighting of the disease. To me, it seems like the Ebola virus outbreak. Everyone was freaking out and thinking they were going to die of Ebola when it was a very low possibility. I think the MERS is the same as well. I was in Korea for 2 weeks and heard about the news of MERS in maybe like the 5th day I was there. Yeah, there was more and more people wearing masks, but people still went to highly crowded places and wore like no masks. The disease isn’t even airborne. As long as people in Korea are safe about their health, I see no problem. And people really shouldn’t cancel their trips. I saw and article that said that the Korean government will compensate tourists if they contracted the MERS..is that true? If it is, I think the government is making big deal out of something that is not so serious.

    3 years ago
  5. I’m not coming to Korea anytime soon (Poor Student + moving back home for the Summer before HEADING TO MANCHESTER TO STUDY PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANSHIP AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!) Though I’m already considering my choices for final year dissertations and would like to do something that compares the Korean Music Industry and Britain’s.

    In terms of the MERS thing. I think that the masks should only be necessary if you are sick (doesn’t have to be MERS. If you’re coughing/sneezing/feeling like a chocolate teapot left on a sunny windowsill, wear one). Just so that even if all you’ve got is a bug, it doesn’t transfer onto someone else.

    It was the same here with Swine Flu. People panicked because newspapers like The Daily Mail (You may have heard about this paper, they blow everything out of proportion and aside from a number of Right Wing readers, most people think of the paper as utter tosh.) said there were a huge number of deaths. As it turns out, up to November of 2009, though there had been deaths, it was only 138 deaths from an estimated 540,000 cases and 2/3 of those who died also had underlying illnesses. Though the deaths were unfortunate, they were not as huge a number as TDM and other media outlets said that they’d be.

    (I also cite this cause they brought out a flu jab which protected against Swine Flu, which helped some people, but also caused my Aunt to lose most of her sight. She only sees shadows now and the only reason she was told to get the jab was because of her asthma)

    3 years ago
  6. I’m turning 18 soon and my bday wish was to go to Korea…but because of MERS my mom won’t allow it. :(
    It sucks when sometimes the media exaggerate things. Hope I can go to Korea someday.

    3 years ago
    • I’m really sorry to hear that. Your mom has definitely blown it out of proportion. You would have been fine here. Hopefully you can come next year!

      3 years ago
  7. i think the girl that made the comment about Ebola here in the US had a good point. i mean, i think that was blown crazy out of proportion too. i was scared but i think i was scared only because everyone was making a big deal about it, but its not like it hindered my daily life. and we don’t wear masks in public in the US! lol (or I’m sure we would have). i don’t know much about MERS in Korea but I’ve been hearing about it like i was hearing about Ebola. so this video made me a little less scared for the people in Korea.

    3 years ago
  8. Five of my friends and I just came back from Korea on Friday. We were in Korea from 9th June to 19th. One of my friend cancelled her trip but the rest of us continued after we are convinced by our friend who live in Seoul that the situation is fine. For precaution, we did bring mask but most of us do not wear it after two or three days in Korea. Personally, I feel the media exaggerate the situation to the point that we are feeling that we are going to a place that stuck by a terrible pandemic. If do not go to the affected hospitals, I think it is fine. We enjoyed our trip well and everybody came back home healthy.

    3 years ago
  9. When the ebola thing was big here in the US a couple of my coworkers liked to listen to a right-wing conspiracy theorist while we were at work. And even though I knew that that guy was completely full of it, after listening to it for weeks it actually began to scare me a little bit. Especially because my brother was getting married in Dallas. “I’m not going to Dallas ’cause I’m NOT getting ebola!” I would scream that at random times while at work. I was 99% joking but I definitely felt a small amount of trepidation even though there was no real threat. I did end up going to Dallas and I didn’t get ebola and I didn’t die. I also didn’t get to go to the Dallas Buyers Club like my brother promised me, but that’s neither here nor there. I mean, literally, the Dallas Buyers Club is neither here nor there because it doesn’t exist and Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum don’t strip at it.

    I don’t know a lot about MERS and its existence in Korea but everything I’ve learned about it makes me think that a lot of people are overreacting. Which means I’m not going to Korea ’cause I’m NOT getting MERS! I can promise you that!

    3 years ago
  10. I do think that news outlets tend to blow these things out of proportion. I was in Korea during the Swine Flu epidemic and schools took crazy precautions. I wasn’t allowed to go to work for two days because I was from a country where they had swine flu… Not that I had been there, just that I was FROM there. The biggest problem that any country deals with is poorly educating people about precautions and this video was a good example. Koreans were told to wear masks. Foreigners said it wasn’t an airborne illness, so which is correct?

    Also a thing that people in the United States news should understand is how different Korean hospitals are from hospitals in the US. I don’t know if this applies elsewhere, as I’ve only been in hospital in Korea and the US. In Korea, people go to the hospital for everything from foot fungus and colds to cancer. There aren’t really clinics or private physicians’ offices. Also the type of care in a hospital is different in Korea than it is in the US. In the US, you have orderlies, nurses’ assistants, medical assistants, doctors’ assistants, nurses, etc. to do things like changing sheets and clearing bedpans and delivering food. That isn’t the case in Korea; families are expected to do those things, and they are expected to stay in the hospital with their loved ones. As such, there are many many more people in a hospital for longer periods of time, so the threat of exposure is actually much more significant than many people realize. People can’t just stay away from hospitals, because there really aren’t any alternatives.

    My biggest concern, actually, is that people who get sick with anything won’t go to the hospital, because they are afraid of getting MERS or that they will get MERS and still go to work because that is what people do when they are sick in Korea – tough it out, but make everyone around you ill.

    3 years ago
  11. I’m really happy to hear that this is all overblown, but I think the masks would help because it keeps you from touching your mouth and nose as often. Even if things aren’t spread by air, touching something that might be infected and then subconsciously touching your face can spread the virus.
    Take care as always, you guys are wonderful.

    3 years ago