Taking action after health scares

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Taking action after health scares

It is shocking to hear that cholera, an infectious disease typically found in poor countries, was recently found in Korea.

According to Korea’s Center for Disease Control & Prevention, a 59-year-old male office worker from Gwangju, South Jeolla, was diagnosed with the disease. He was treated at a hospital on Aug. 10 for diarrhea and stomachache. He had not traveled abroad, but rather had been vacationing at a beach in South Gyeongsang. Health authorities believe he contracted the disease after eating raw fish.

Early action is most important with any infectious disease, and cholera is a Group A disease subject to immediate notification and quarantine. In many countries, a single case of cholera in a person with a history of no overseas travel is considered an outbreak. Health authorities should muster all their resources for a fast, thorough epidemiologic investigation. They must trace the infection route and prevent any additional cases. Everyone the patient had come in contact with, even those without any symptoms, should be quarantined and examined. Everyone must cooperate.

The disease, though rare in developed societies, is still rampant in places including Africa and Southeast Asia. It is a diarrheal infection caused by the ingestion of contaminated food and water. No cases have been reported in Korea since 2001. The 57 patients with the symptoms since 2003 all caught it overseas. Authorities may have let down their guard. They must investigate the hygiene standards at schools, restaurants, tourism sites and communities across the nation, as well as begin public hygiene campaigns.

Then there was the outbreak of hepatitis C through blood-borne transmission at a clinic in southern Seoul, which reused needles that cost just 100 won ($0.09). This was the third case after a mass infection in a clinic in Yangcheon district in southwestern Seoul last year and another in Wonju City, Gangwon. It could have happened in many more clinics and hospitals.

The government must institutionalize regular supervision of injection or infusion equipment. Without fundamental actions, public safety could be at risk. Safety must be ensured first before any development in infrastructure and technology.

JoongAng Ilbo, August 24, Page 30
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