Thoughts about MERS in Seoul

I was excited when I came to Korea on the 27th May but after a couple of days arriving in Seoul, MERS epidemic has popped out of no where when some guy came back from the Middle East and fell sick, naturally those came in contact with him got the virus.

As the time I wrote this post, it has been confirmed that 4 deaths had been arisen and 50 people has been confirmed to have transmitted with the disease. However, those who passed away are quite elderly and had previously diagnosed with respiratory problems.

Update as at 15/6/2015: Confirmed cases increased to 150, while death toll rise to 16 (mostly elderly).

It’s been more than a week ever since I’m in Seoul and honestly speaking, it is not as bad as medias reported. There are some, probably only 5% of Koreans while the rest are mostly foreigners that puts on mask, the others doesn’t really bother much and going around without having them on. MERS is not air-borne, as per experts, it spread through close contact and improper hygiene maintenance. Therefore, visitors should always wash their hands before eating or touching one’s face, better to not touch the face at all when you’re at outside though.

Of course you could always put on mask too if you feel threaten by the virus. Kindly note that mask are really expensive now in Korea, and most of the place are out of stock. Please bring your own so that you don’t need to struggle finding for masks.

In my opinion, MERS spread fast due to Korean’s food sharing culture which is a common thing here. I don’t mean that eating the same bowl of rice, but as in the food in Korea usually served in a pot, not to forget about the ban chan (or side dishes) that everyone share it together. Thus, the virus naturally transmitted easily through this means.

If you’re not sharing food with anyone on your trip, you’re most likely safe from MERS. So, avoid food sharing.

Update 15/6/2015: MERS did not spread publicly as of today and only spread through hospital visitors and patients, and some of their family members had it too. Avoid HOSPITAL at all cost.

The number of people infected are increasing quite rapidly, however, the government is barely doing anything to actually try prevent the virus from spreading even more. Try avoiding hospitals too if possible as many of these confirmed cases are spread through hospital visits.

Due to this outburst, business in Seoul took a direct hit as well when people starts cancelling trips and bookings they have made prior to the outbreak. From a report from Korean Tourism Organisation, 7,000 people are said to have cancelled their trips to Korea, while visitors who are in Korea during this period too have decided to shorten their trip and return to their country earlier.

If you’re wondering, it is actually STILL SAFE to visit Korea, though my advice is to anyhow keep a hand sanitizer with you at all times, and wash your hands before eating. You can also visit the MERS map website for MERS affected areas in Korea (Korean only though).


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