With an uncertain situation on the ground in Korea and the local media raking Korean Health officials over the coals for a lack of full disclosure and what they have - and haven't - done to contain their MERS outbreak, it isn't terribly surprising to see other nations in the region taking very proactive steps to avoid falling into the same morass.
Citing concerns over the possibility of `community spread' of the MERS virus in Seoul, the Taiwanese CDC issued the following level two travel alert for Korea's capital city, and a lesser alert for the rest of the country.
While perhaps an over-reaction, the longer this outbreak goes on, the more likely we are to see more announcements like the following.
In light of current MERS-CoV outbreak in South Korea, Taiwan CDC issues travel notice level for Seoul to Level 2: Alert for MERS-CoV and plans five major response strategies( 2015-06-02 )
South Korea’s MERS-CoV total increased to 25 cases, including one imported case in Guangdong, China. However, not all confirmed cases have links to healthcare settings where the index patient was treated. Moreover, beginning June 2, 2015, hospitals in Seoul have begun to implement fever screening at their emergency departments. Based on all the given information, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) concluded that community transmission of MERS-CoV might have taken place in Seoul. Hence, Taiwan CDC has decided to issue a travel notice of Level 2: Alert for MERS-CoV to Seoul, South Korea and a travel notice of Level 1: Watch for MERS-CoV to other areas in South Korea. The public is urged to practice good personal hygiene, take prevention measures to ward off infection, and avoid visiting healthcare facilities and hospitals in South Korea when unnecessary.
In addition, Taiwan CDC has also revised the case definition for MERS-CoV to include having visited healthcare facilities and hospitals in Seoul, South Korea within 14 days prior to disease onset as one of the epidemiological criteria.
Besides continuing to closely monitor the development of the ongoing MERS-CoV outbreaks, Taiwan CDC has planed the following five major response strategies:
During September 2012 and May 30, 2015, Taiwan reported a total of 17 suspected MERS-CoV cases and MERS-CoV infection has been eliminated in all of them. To further expand the surveillance for potential cases, Taiwan CDC has also tested 660 cases of pneumonia of unknown cause for MERS-CoV infection and none of the cases was tested positive for the disease. Taiwan CDC once again stresses its commitment to maintaining open communication and information transparency when it comes to the ongoing MERS-CoV outbreaks and promptly announcing all relevant information for public reference. The public is urged to refrain from spreading inaccurate rumors, which will violate the Communicable Disease Control Act.
Since several of the close contacts are still in the incubation period, the possibility of new MERS-CoV cases in Korea remains. Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest MERS-CoV has mutated and there has been no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission. As a result, travelers planning to visit affected areas are urged to pay attention to personal hygiene, respiratory protection and hand cleanliness and avoid visiting any farms and all direct contact with camels, including drinking un-pasteurized camel milk, to reduce the risk of infection. If you have experienced symptoms such as fever, cough or influenza-like illness, and diarrhea after returning to Taiwan from affected area, please notify the quarantine officer at the quarantine station at airports/harbors immediately and put on a surgical mask and seek immediate medical attention and inform your physician of any recent travel and exposure history. Taiwan CDC urges physicians to be sure to inquire suspected patients their travel, occupation, contact and cluster (TOCC) history and reinforce the reporting of suspected cases to ensure prompt treatment and subsequent implementation of the relevant prevention and control measures. For more information, please visit the Taiwan CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov.tw or call the toll-free Communicable Disease Reporting and Consultation Hotline, 1922 (or 0800-001922).