As South Korea reinforces measures to contain the spread of MERS across the country, the number of fatalities and MERS cases continue to arise. As of today, the number of those infected has climbed to 87, and 2,361 people suspected of MERS have been quarantined. The death of another patient,who was being treated for pneumonia at a hospital in Daejeon before he contracted the virus, was announced this morning, bringing the total death toll to 6. As if the situation could not get any worse, a highschool student, who was admitted to a hospital in Seoul for an unidentified illness and had undergone surgery, was later diagnosed with MERS. Citizens are now more fearful of the virus spreading among younger people.
Another alarming news today was that of a Korean couple who visited the Philippines on Saturday and returned to Korea on Sunday despite being placed under mandatory quarantine for MERS contagion. The couple, both doctors, treated a patient who was tested positive for MERS on Sunday. According to a news report, the doctors were vehemently against the self-quarantine notice given to them, since they did not show any symptoms of MERS infection. The husband, who treated the MERS infectee for back pain prior to her MERS diagnosis, was advised to stay home. The wife, who was consulted by the same MERS infectee for having high fever, was ordered to wear a mask outdoors to avoid possibly infecting others should she show signs of the virus. They, of all people, should know that defying quarantine will pose a potential risk to the safety of others around them, but they gave more importance to a weekend holiday than following standard procedure.
This reminds me of the Korean man who traveled to China despite manifesting symptoms of MERS. He was confirmed to have contracted MERS after Chinese health officials conducted tests on him. He is the first MERS patient in China. Why did he have to travel overseas and put other lives at possible risk when he was already showing symptoms of MERS?
We are responsible for our own safety, and at times, for others’ well-being, too. At a time like this, we should think of others as much as we think of ourselves. I get very upset every time someone coughs (or sneezes) without covering his mouth, or when someone spits on the street, unmindful of the bacteria (or virus) that he is spreading. The doctors who went to the Philippines and the Korean tourist who went to China despite the possibility of contracting MERS from Korea could have been more responsible citizens by having themselves fully evaluated for the virus. We can all be responsible citizens by taking necessary precautions against this dreaded virus. If we all do our part, (the authorities and the citizens), we can hope that there will be no addition to the death toll and no fresh cases of MERS.