All-out efforts to curb MERS

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Information as of 21 Feb, 2017

Frequently asked questions and answers about MERS


Q1) What are the main symptoms of MERS?

▶ The main symptoms of MERS are, after an average incubation period of 5 days (2 to 14 days), fever (more than 37.5℃), coughing, sneezing, phlegm, difficulty in breathing, short of breath, and other respiratory symptoms. Symptoms are similar to those of pneumonia. Symptoms can also include difficulty in digestion (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea).


Q2) I have a runny nose and I am coming down with a cold. Is this MERS?

▶ Currently, in Korea, the MERS virus is not infected by contact in the local community. So far, all infections have been caused by contact in the hospital. Therefore, if you have not been in contact with patients who have been confirmed diagnosis of MERS or patients who have been suspected diagnosis of MERS and have not been travelling in the Middle East, it is unlikely that you have been infected with the MERS virus. If you have not been in contact with MERS confirmed patients or MERS suspected patients and have not been travelling in the Middle East, but you want to receive treatment for your cold, wear a mask, go to your community health center, and receive treatment from the medical team. The medical team may look at your symptoms and listen to your recent history of contact and decide to request testing for MERS from the Seoul Research


Q3) Is there a self-test for MERS? Can I self-diagnose myself of MERS?

▶ There is no self-test for MERS. If you are showing signs of fever (more than 37.5℃), coughing, difficulty in breathing, and other respiratory symptoms, you can suspect yourself of MERS. But you cannot accurately self-diagnose yourself of MERS just by looking at the symptoms because the symptoms of MERS are similar to that of a cold. If you are showing signs of suspicious symptoms and you have a recent history of being in contact with a MERS patient or a recent history of travelling in the Middle East, the health authorities may collect your clinical specimen (for example, discharge from your respiratory tract by coughing or clearing your throat), run them through some tests at a laboratory, and confirm the diagnosis of MERS. So if you are showing signs of suspicious symptoms, contact your community health center immediately for further instructions.


Q4) Where can I be tested for MERS?

▶ If you have a recent history of being in contact with a MERS patient or a recent history of travelling in the Middle East and you are showing signs of suspicious symptoms, you can be tested for MERS. Contact your community health center immediately and a health worker will visit your home to collect your clinical specimen.


Q5) Can I be tested for MERS at my community health center?

▶ Community health centers are not conducting separate tests for MERS. If you have a high likelihood of being infected with the MERS virus, an epidemiological investigator will make the judgment to have a health worker collect your clinical specimen and send it to the Seoul Research Center for Health and Environment or the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation on the diagnosis of MERS.


Q6) Can I use public transportation when visiting my community health center?

▶ Refrain from using public transportation if you are showing signs of suspicious symptoms. You can be transferred by ambulance. If you must visit the hospital yourself, wear a mask and drive your own car.


Q7) What kind of tests do I have to go through at my community health center? When can I receive the test results?

▶ Only those who have a high likelihood of being infected with the MERS virus, for example, those who have a recent history of being in contact with a MERS confirmed patient or a MERS suspected patient, the family members of these patients, those who have a recent history of travelling in the Middle East, and those who are showing signs of suspicious symptoms can be tested for MERS. The DNA of phlegm and bronchial washing liquid are tested (RT-PCR) for confirmation on the diagnosis of MERS. Generally speaking, the test results come out the next day. But these days, requests for testing are overloaded, so it may take a while to receive the test results. Also, in some cases, considering the degree of contact with a MERS patient and the degree of clinical symptoms, a first test and a second test 48 hours after the first test may be required.


Q8) Is information about the hospital where the MERS confirmed patient was hospitalized disclosed to the public? What about information about whether there is a MERS confirmed patient within my residential area?

▶ Initially, this information had not been disclosed to the public. But as of the morning of June 7th, it has been announced publically. For the list of the names of the hospitals, contact the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Q9) What are the names of the hospitals that are designated as hospitals to test for MERS?

▶ There are no designated hospitals. If you have not traveled in the Middle East and have not been in close contact with a MERS patient, but you have symptoms of a cold, then wear a mask and go to a hospital to treat your cold. If the hospital suspects you of MERS, then it will report to a nearby community health center and the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention for further examination. If you are tested positive for MERS, you will be sent to a quarantined hospital to be treated there.


Q10) I have to go to the hospital but I have a weak immune system. Is it safe for me to go to a general hospital?

▶ Not all general hospitals are vulnerable to infection. Go to the hospital, receive the medical treatment that you need, but make sure to wear a mask and wash your hands frequently.


Q11) If I used the same public transportation with a patient who was confirmed diagnosis of MERS, can I be tested for MERS?

▶ First, check yourself for the following symptoms. Do you have fever of more than 37.5℃ two times a day once in the morning and once in the evening? Do you have respiratory symptoms such as coughing or difficulty in breathing? Do you have digestive symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea? If you are showing signs of the above symptoms, contact your community health center immediately for further instructions.


Q12) If I tested positive for MERS, what kind of procedure do I have to go through?

▶ Those who have been confirmed diagnosis of MERS, must refrain from contact with other people and must be hospitalized in negative pressure rooms in order to prevent infecting other people such as patients and doctors. They will be observed, treated, and prescribed medication during their hospitalization until they have met the standards to leave the hospital.


    《Terminology Explanation》

    - Self quarantine: Those who are not yet showing any symptoms, but have been in close contact with a MERS patient, must be under self quarantine. Those under self quarantine must stay at their homes 14 days after the contact, in order to observe the appearance of symptoms.

    - Institutional quarantine: Those under institutional quarantine must refrain from contact with other people, be hospitalized in a negative pressure room, be observed, treated, and prescribed medication throughout the maximum incubation period of MERS.

    - Passive observation: Those who have been in the same space as a MERS confirmed patient, but have been more than 2 meters away from the patient, thus has a low likelihood of being infected with the MERS virus, must be under passive observation. Those under passive observation must report to the health authorities if any symptoms of fever or coughing appear.

    - Active observation: Those who have been in relatively distant contact with a MERS patient, (compared to those under self quarantine, who have been in close contact with a MERS patient) must be under active observation. Those under active observation can go outside, but they must report to the health authorities two times a day about the appearance of any symptoms such as fever or coughing throughout the incubation period of MERS.


Q13) I am under active observation. What should I do?

▶If you are not showing signs of symptoms, and have not been in close contact with a MERS confirmed patient, but you suspect yourself to be infected with the MERS virus, you may visit your community health center and be checked two times a day for fever and respiratory symptoms during the incubation period. During the monitoring period, refrain from going to places that may be crowded with people, and if you must go, wear a mask.


Q14) I am under active observation, but I want to be tested for MERS. What should I do?

▶ You have to be showing signs of fever and respiratory symptoms to be tested for MERS, for the test results to be accurate. If you are showing signs of symptoms, contact your community health center. A health worker will visit your home to collect your clinical specimen for testing.


Q15) I am under self quarantine. What should I do?

▶ If you are under self quarantine, refrain from going outside and going to public spaces. Refrain from physical contact with your family. Stay in different rooms, use different household products, and wear a mask even inside your home. Wash your hands frequently and use tissues to cover your coughs and sneezes. If you begin to show symptoms, contact your community health center or the MERS hotline (043-719-7777) immediately and follow the instructions of the authorities.


Q16) I am under self quarantine but I want to go outside and run some errands. What should I do?

▶ If you have been in contact with a MERS confirmed patient, you must maintain self quarantine for 14 days. This is to protect not only yourself, but also your family and neighbors. Abide by the self quarantine rules and do not go outside.


Q17) My family member is under self quarantine. What should I do?

▶ All other family members must relocate elsewhere. Stay in different rooms and use different household products. Wash your hands frequently and clean household appliances often. If you must dispose of your family member’s (who is under self quarantine) nasal discharge, phlegm, sweat, urine, feces, or blood, wear a mask, a gown, and a pair of gloves. Monitor your family member’s condition carefully and if he or she begins to show symptoms, contact your community health center of the MERS hotline (043-719-7777) immediately and follow the instructions of the authorities.


Q18) I am under self quarantine. I cannot go to work. Can I receive emergency livelihood support?

▶ If you are an employee, you can get paid leave, which means your livelihood is not under immediate difficulty, so you are not qualified to receive emergency livelihood support. Those who are qualified to receive emergency livelihood support are those who are unemployed (with the exception of students and homemakers), day laborers, and self-employed small business owners, who are the sole breadwinners in their family and who are unable to make any money during their period of quarantine or hospitalization. Contact the MERS hotline for further instructions.


Q19) I want to be put under institutional quarantine. What should I do?

▶ If you have been in close contact with a MERS confirmed patient and are showing signs of fever and respiratory symptoms or if you have been tested positive for MERS, you are qualified to be put under institutional quarantine.


Q20) I want to know if an event has been canceled due to the MERS outbreak.

▶ The Central MERS Countermeasure Headquarters has not yet set up any guidelines regarding matters concerning the cancellation of events. Nevertheless, if you are elderly and have a respiratory disease, refrain from going to places that may be crowded with people, and if you must go, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and maintain good personal hygiene.


Q21) How can I know if my child’s daycare center or school has been closed down temporarily due to the MERS outbreak?

▶ Some schools in Gyeonggi Province, Chungcheong Province, and Seoul Metropolitan Area have been closed down temporarily. But it is the authority of the Ministry of Education and the principals of the schools to close down a school. If they decide to close down your child’s school, they will send you a letter informing you of the close down.


Q22) How can I know more about preventing MERS?

▶ The above are the most frequently asked questions about MERS and their answers. If we have any more additional information, we will share them with you. The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s first and foremost priority is the health and safety of the citizens of Seoul. For more information, contact the MERS hotline (109), the Dasan Call Center (120), or the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s MERS Countermeasure Headquarters (02-2133-0691~7).