Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Korea Announces Major Changes In Wake Of MERS Outbreak

Coronavirus PHIL

Coronavirus – Credit CDC PHIL




The explosive spread of MERS in South Korea’s medical establishment last May and June was credited to both design deficits in hospital wards and emergency rooms that helped to spread the virus and cultural practices that encouraged family members to stay with hospitalized patients to provide routine care. 


The following excerpt comes from the WHO summary Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Republic of Korea issued 15 June 2015.


MERS CoV spread in Korea

Conditions and cultural traditions specific to Korea have likely also played a role in the outbreak’s rapid spread. The accessibility and affordability of health care in Korea encourage “doctor shopping”; patients frequently consult specialists in several facilities before deciding on a first-choice facility.

Moreover, it is customary in Korea for many family members and friends to visit loved ones when they are in the emergency room or admitted to hospital. It is also customary for family members to provide almost constant bedside care often staying in the hospital room overnight, increasing the risk of close exposures in the health care setting.


Now that their MERS outbreak is over, hospitals are examining ways to prevent future outbreaks of MERS  . . . or any other infectious disease.


The hardest hit hospital in the Korean outbreak was Samsung Hospital in Seoul, which accounted for nearly half (90 of 186) patients.  Today they have announced a 50 Billion Won (42 million USD) renovation plan designed to limit the spread of any future outbreak. 


Among the planned changes:

  • The hospital will allow only one visitor per patient in the emergency room.  Visitors will be required to book their visits in advance.
  • Emergency rooms will have separate areas to treat infections vs. non-infectious patients
  • The SMC will enlarge their ER room size by 60%
  • SMC will add negative pressure isolation rooms to the ER
  • SMC will also partner with the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) to try to develop a MERS vaccine.


Additional details are available via the following Korea Times article.

Samsung hospital announces post-MERS measures

By Kim Se-jeong

Samsung Medical Center (SMC) will refurbish its emergency room and limit the number of visitors for patients in an effort to prevent another infectious disease from spreading there and to ensure the safety of patients.

SMC's director Song Jae-hoon said Wednesday that the hospital will spend almost 50 billion won to build necessary infrastructure and facilities.

(Continue . . . )


This move by Samsung Seoul is just part of a much larger nation-wide initiative to prepare Korea’s hospital system to deal with infectious diseases like MERS, Ebola, and avian flu.  Korea’s government has also announced an ambitious  comprehensive `national defense strategy’ against infectious diseases:


Since this statement doesn’t translated particularly well, we’ll turn to a lengthy English language summary carried today by the Asian News Network.  Follow the link to read it in its entirety:


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Seoul announces post-MERS plan for infectious diseases

Claire Lee The Korea Herald

Publication Date : 02-09-2015

All general hospitals with 300 or more patient beds in South Korea will be required to establish negative air pressure rooms to prevent cross-contamination, Seoul announced on Tuesday as part of its post-Middle East respiratory syndrome plan to better deal with contagious diseases.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare also announced that the head of Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention will be appointed as the ministry’s joint vice minister to strengthen public health sector, and establish an emergency operations center that runs 24-hours a day to readily detect any possible epidemic.

South Korea's shortage of nursing staff and negative pressure rooms had been blamed for the MERS spread earlier this year, which claimed 36 lives. Many Koreans who contracted the virus did so while caring for their family members at MERS-affected hospital rooms.

(Continue . . . )

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