Disease controllers had foresight of Korea’s weakness on new infectious diseases

Almost half of the members of the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Korea was vulnerable to new infectious diseases, according to a survey from last year that was revealed recently.

Most of them were unaware of emergency protocols in case of such an outbreak and almost half of the surveyed said they did not wish to participate in on-site dispatches.

These and other results were shown in the research conducted by Kangwon National University upon request by the KCDC last October on the organisation's emergency operation plans in case of a disease outbreak.

The 299 surveyed officials picked -- in the order of likelihood -- novel influenza, avian influenza, Ebola virus and Middle East respiratory syndrome as potential sources of an outbreak in Korea.

Nearly half, or 146 respondents, said Korea's level of protection against new infectious diseases was low.

More than half were not aware of emergency countermeasures, with 115 saying they were not familiar, and 43 saying they had no idea.

And 137 of the surveyed officials said they had no intention of being dispatched to outbreak sites, for example to quarantine stations. Some 68 cited a lack of measures they could provide to counter an outbreak, while 24 said they wished to avert the danger of being infected.

The survey shows a widespread complacency against the spread of infectious diseases among the health authorities as the country struggles to fight the surging number of people infected by MERS since last month.

Thirty per cent of the respondents said monitoring system to detect new infections was insufficient. Some 112 said there was a lack of co-operation among relevant departments, while 110 said they needed a wider pool of specialists to handle crises.

On its website, the CDCP describes itself as having led the country's management of infectious diseases in the past decade, after various changes to its roles since its inception in 1963 as a national health care centre.

Among its roles are diagnosis, research and patient management of various infectious diseases as well as vaccination projects, tuberculosis management, rare and incurable disease management and organ donation and transplantation projects.