U-M experts can address MERS outbreak in South Korea

June 2, 2015
Written By:
Laurel Thomas


Following the deaths of two people in South Korea from MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), health officials have issued quarantines there and in Hong Kong and China.

Since last month, South Korea has reported 17 cases of the outbreak—traced to a South Korean who visited the Middle East. Another sick man was named as China’s first MERS case last week, after traveling to the country from South Korea, via Hong Kong.

U-M has faculty experts available to address infectious disease transmission:

Dr. Arnold Monto, the Thomas Francis Jr. Collegiate Professor of Epidemiology, is an internationally known expert who can discuss transmission, prevention, mitigation and social response to outbreaks and pandemic planning. This includes transmission modes.

Monto said there is no real threat of MERS spread in the United States.

“Each spring there’s been an outbreak in Saudi Arabia and the immediate region, and it’s not as dramatic this year as in previous years, which probably means they are doing a better job of controlling the in-hospital transmission,” he said. “It should be noted that the World Health Organization has never felt it worth declaring this a ‘public health emergency of international concern,’ which was the case with Ebola and pandemic influenza.”

Contact Monto: 734-764-5453, [email protected]. Bio: myumi.ch/JyKZM


Dr. Eden Wells, clinical associate professor of epidemiology and director of the Preventive Medicine Residency at the School of Public Health, has research interests in emerging infectious disease threats, applied epidemiology and public health practice, including preparedness planning for public health emergency events. In addition, she recently was appointed chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“Obviously, South Korea is dealing with a pretty significant outbreak but they have a very strong public health system that should be more than adequate to quarantine and monitor those with MERS,” Wells said. “This goes to show you that emerging contagious diseases can spread pretty quickly. Although there’s no change in risk currently for the United States, it does suggest that we all should be prepared and watchful.”

Contact Wells: 734-647-5306, [email protected]. Bio: myumi.ch/6kxwd