South Korea will build up a new disease control system to better fight new kinds of contagious diseases like the MERS virus, President Park Geun-hye said Wednesday as the country is scrambling to contain the spread of the virus.
“With this experience as a basis, I plan to build up things like an organization, workforce and institutions in order to deal with new types of infectious diseases more effectively,” Park said in a meeting with experts from U.S. and world disease prevention bodies.
She admitted to the government’s failure in bringing the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome under control in the initial stage of the outbreak.
“We couldn’t curb the inflow and spread of MERS in the initial stage because we have experienced a new kind of contagious disease, which originated in camels, for the first time,” the president said, adding that the government is making every effort to end the spread of the disease.
Since the report of the first MERS case here on May 20, the number of people diagnosed with the virus has shot up to 179, with the death toll reaching 27 as of Wednesday.
The spread of the illness has been mainly blamed on the government’s withdrawal of some critical information about the contagious disease in the early stage, including the movements of MERS patients.
Park also appealed for international cooperation in South Korea’s plan to beef up its disease control system.
“Each country in the world should step up research efforts to guard against the possibility of exposure to new diseases like MERS and I think they should also strengthen cooperation in the field,” Park said. “I hope global experts in the disease prevention field could share their experience and know-how for our country to innovate the anti-contagious disease system.”
The presidential office said in a statement that the foreign experts said that South Korea needs to take the MERS breakout as an occasion to learn how to tackle contagious diseases.
“In particular, it is important for hospitals to respond to new infectious diseases. So there is a need to let experts on contagious diseases stay at hospitals to prevent the spread of such diseases and to train medical workers,” it added.
Those who attended the meeting included Stephen Redd, the director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brian McCloskey, an adviser to the World Health Organization as well as U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Mark Lippert.
Source: The Korea Times