|Myongji Hospital in Goyang, north of Seoul, is taking care of the third confirmed patient of the new coronavirus as it did successfully during the MERS crisis five years ago.|
The Korean public’s fear of a spread of the new coronavirus is growing with the third confirmed case. However, local hospitals are responding faster than they did against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) several years ago. The hospitals are restricting visitors and installing thermal sensors at the entrances to prevent the inflow of the virus.
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), a 54-year-old Korean man returning from Wuhan, China, on Monday, showed no symptoms at first. However, as symptoms including cough and phlegm developed later, he called the KCDC on Saturday and was hospitalized in Hanyang University Myongji Hospital (HUMH), a nationally designated hospital, on Sunday. The KCDC confirmed that he was the third patient infected with the new coronavirus in Korea.
The hospital quarantined the patient in the negative pressure room, following the infectious disease protocol.
"The confirmed patient with the new coronavirus is completely isolated and treated appropriately," an official of Myongji Hospital said. "We have informed the patient, the guardian, and the medical service providers on the current situation. We are acting upon the infectious disease protocol."
The third confirmed patient is having a slight fever and phlegm without pneumonia, according to the hospital.
Since 2014, Myongji Hospital has created an infectious disease response protocol and set up a separate team to brace for an outbreak and spread of new infectious diseases with periodical training.
Myongji’s preparation worked successfully when MERS hit the nation in 2015. At the time, five patients infected with MERS virus were hospitalized at Myongji and fully recovered. No hospital staff contracted the disease.
Myongji Hospital is operating a separate clinic to sort out infected patients and to prevent the transmission of the new coronavirus from China. On the hospital’s homepage, Myongji posted “Q&As regarding the new coronavirus from Wuhan, China” to inform current conditions and treatments of confirmed patients, and to alleviate concerns of existing patients and residents nearby.
Following is Myongji Hospital's “Q&As regarding the new coronavirus from Wuhan, China.”
Question: Where is the confirmed patient isolated?
Answer: The patient is isolated in the negative pressure room. Myongji Hospital's negative pressure room is perfectly separated from the general wards, and only the medical teams have access to the room. The ventilation of air conditioning is also separated from the general wards, and independent medical teams exclusively treat the patient.
Q: How will the third confirmed patient be treated?
A: On January 26, 2020, the suspected patient was confirmed with the new coronavirus by KCDC and transferred to our hospital's negative pressure room for treatment. The patient's condition is stable and will be treated with our professional care as we have shown our outstanding capability to deal with MERS.
Q: What is a nationally designated hospital for isolation?
A: The government designated 29 hospitals for isolation to control infections in each region after the MERS outbreak. The government picked Myongji Hospital in 2013, before the MERS outbreak. Myongji is the only regional hospital to control and treat infections and disaster in northern Gyeonggi Province. It has 13 negative pressure rooms.
Q: What role did Myongji Hospital play during the MERS outbreak?
A: Only Myongji Hospital had negative pressure rooms when the MERS outbreak hit Korea. We took five patients transferred from Pyeongtaek St. Mary's Hospital and they fully recovered without any secondary infection on the medical team. For this, we received various awards from other countries and our government, including the Presidential Citation. Our fight against MERS earned a nickname, “Myongji’s Grand Battle against MERS.”
Q: Will healthcare providers treating the patient with new coronavirus treat general people?
A: No. Only a specific number of medical teams treat suspicious and confirmed patients. The medical staff wear protective devices and treat according to the trained manual in the negative pressure room. The negative pressure rooms are not only completely separated from the general wards, but also operate independently.
Q: Why is the hospital limiting visitors?
A: Every general hospital has the same policy across the nation. A problem can occur when an unspecified patient enters the hospital and become the source of the infection in spite of oneself. The new coronavirus has a dormant period of a week, so we are limiting the visitors as much as possible to prevent the virus from spreading in any way.