News Tip: South Korea Overreacting to MERS Threat, Says Duke Expert

South Korean society is responding to confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) with broad measures such as public school closures and large-scale quarantines.

Quotes:

“Many experts will argue that the South Korean government is overreacting with the aggressive school closures,” said Gregory Gray, a physician and professor of global health and infectious disease at Duke University’s Global Health Institute and School of Medicine. “Our current knowledge suggests that it takes considerable close contact for one person to transmit MERS-CoV to another. Such transmission has generally occurred in hospital and home settings where the infected person is clearly ill.”

“Of course, if the virus becomes more transmissible among humans, such as the transmissibility we see with seasonal influenza virus each winter in North America, then criticisms of South Korea may be inappropriate. However, we really have no evidence to suggest the virus changed. Without such information, the school closures and the subsequent public panic are likely to do more harm than good. Measure that people will likely take -- such as buying masks that could potentially be used for more dire medical emergencies -- are out of balance with the actual risk.”  

Bio:

Dr. Gregory Gray is a physician and professor of global health, and infectious disease at Duke University’s Global Health Institute and School of Medicine. He has conducted diverse epidemiological studies of infectious diseases for 25 years on five continents. Much of his work is in “One Health,” the intersection of human and animal disease and the environment.

For more comment, contact Gregory Gray at: gregory.gray@duke.edu

http://globalhealth.duke.edu/people/faculty/gray-gregory