Despite Southeast Asian countries’s heightening fear over the recent MERS outbreak in South Korea, representatives for the Centers for Disease Control and Protection say that they believe the United States can effectively respond to MERS if it reaches American shores.
Hong Kong and China have both issued “red alert” travel advisories to its citizens going to South Korea. Taiwan and Singapore have also issued warnings on travel to their citizens.
Many Americans have chosen not to take trips to the disease-stricken nation—so many, in fact, that the tourism industry of South Korea, one of the world’s largest, has taken a serious hit over the last month. The South Korean government has begun issuing MERS insurance to tourists, in an effort to combat fears about the virus.
American officials and health experts have consistently downplayed fears of MERS.
“You’re not going to get it. Go about your business. Eat Korean food. Visit Korea,” Laurene Mascola, a Los Angeles-based expert on pandemics, said.
The CDC apparently concurs with Mascola. In a statement to Breitbart News, representatives from the agency said they feel confident that they can contain and combat any potential MERS outbreak in the United States.
MERS stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome. Doctors discovered the first case of the disease in Saudi Arabia in 2012. They believe the virus spread to South Korea through a 68-year-old man who was traveling in the Arabian Peninsula.
The virus attacks an infected person’s lungs and breathing tubes. About 30 to 40 percent of all victims die. At the latest counts, 175 have been infected with the virus in South Korea, and 13,000 remain in quarantine.
The virus spread through close contact with an infected person. Part of the reason health officials consistently downplay fears of a MERS pandemic devastating the globe is that it is simply difficult to contract the virus when most of the infected are held in quarantine, as is the case in South Korea.
Three cases of MERS have been discovered in the U.S., all three in 2014. Two patients with the disease worked as health care professionals in Saudi Arabia. The third, an Illinois businessman, contracted the disease shortly after coming into contact with one of the first two patients. All three American victims have fully recovered.
Earlier this month, the Heritage Foundation published a study which said that the CDC and other government health organizations can apply lessons learned from the recent Ebola outbreak to the MERS situation.
“The Ebola response in 2014 was a superb learning experience that should have eliminated any hubris or overconfidence in U.S. abilities to deal with highly infectious diseases,” the study says. “It also showed that America can respond agilely and learn on the fly. Both lessons should be applied to the MERS outbreak for the benefit of all.”
The CDC officials Breitbart News contacted said that the study largely reflects their outlook.
“We recognize the potential for MERS… to spread further and cause more cases in the United States and globally,” the CDC’s statement said.
In preparation, the CDC spokesman said, the agency has improved its information collection and distribution abilities, especially in regards to MERS, and is guiding hospitals and others concerned with public health as to how to respond to potential cases of MERS.
The CDC is also studying the disease with advanced molecular detection techniques in order to further research for a cure or vaccination.
“CDC continues to monitor the MERS situation globally and work with the World Health Organization and other partners to understand the risks of this virus to the public health,” the statement said.
At the beginning of June, WHO sent a team to monitor and aid the South Korean response to this public health crisis. The team of experts has largely been complimentary of the response thus far.