Although the spread of Zika virus in South Korea is unlikely, the Korean government has taken measures to prevent its outbreak since early February. From outlawing blood donations from citizens who visited Zika-affected countries to putting up posters warning travelers about the virus, it has increased awareness around the country.
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that causes mild symptoms such as fever, headache, and muscle pain. However, it is especially dangerous to pregnant women, as it can cause microcephaly, a congenital condition where children are born with abnormally small heads. Currently, there is no specific treatment or vaccines against the Zika disease, and avoiding mosquito bites is the only way to prevent transmission. Since Zika broke out in Brazil, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified it as an international health emergency.
In March, there was a first confirmed case of the Zika virus in South Korea. A 43-year-old man was infected by a mosquito from his trip to Brazil, and the case was quickly resolved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP). The CDCP reported that he has not been bitten since his arrival to Korea. They added that the possibility of a Zika outbreak will rise during the summer.
Although aware of the potential transmission of Zika in Korea, many Koreans were not concerned about the issue. Kim Joon-sung, a Korean, commented, “I remember hearing about a man with Zika virus in Korea about a week ago, but I did not pay much attention to it. I mean, it’s not a big deal because its symptoms are only mild.”
Teenagers appeared to know very little about this virus. Many assumed it was completely irrelevant to South Korea. Brian Kim, a sophomore at Seoul Foreign High School, told JSR, “All I really know about the virus is that it has to do something with mosquitos. It must be a new kind of disease that doesn’t affect Korea.”
Other students were completely unaware of Zika, with one asking whether it was a strain of the Ebola virus, and another asking whether it was a shoe company.