On Friday, South Korea announced the 36th death from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), though no new cases have been reported in five days. In an email interview, Myoungsoon You, an assistant professor of public health at Seoul National University, discussed South Korea’s public health system and its response to the MERS outbreak.
WPR: How robust is South Korea’s public health system, and what measures are in place to contain outbreaks such as MERS?
Myoungsoon You: The MERS outbreak has exposed great weaknesses in South Korea’s public health system. Lack of necessary services such as negative room pressure systems for isolation rooms and the failure to quickly release and share essential information have been critical shortcomings in managing the MERS outbreak. Also, the overall culture of South Korea’s medical facilities and health care system is not well adapted for a defensive response to an infectious disease. They are more focused on medical treatment of individuals and less on community-based public health surveillance and prevention.