Skip Navigation


The importance of civil awareness with COVID-19

Doctor Chang Cheolhoon, medical doctor and professor in Pusan National University's Department of Laboratory Medicine and the chairperson of the Korean Society of Clinical Microbiology, is a medical expert closely following the COVID-19 pandemic. He urges the importance of an educated and vigilant public in the midst of these trying times. 

△ Dr. Chang Cheolhoon with his book "Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World." 

COVID-19 is causing fear all over the world. Before SARS or MERS, the coronavirus was known as the cause of the common cold, and it was not considered to cause other serious infections. However, it was re-examined and was discovered to be an unprecedented virulent pathogen, which originated from wild animals and entered humans. 

The history of infectious pandemics is a long one. The Black Death and Spanish Flu swept through the world in the past. The world experienced the spread of Asian influenza, the Hong Kong Flu and AIDS in the latter half of the 20th century. This century has already seen the appearance of SARS, Zika, Ebola and COVID-19.

New infectious diseases are mostly man-made disasters. Factors including population growth, large-scale livestock breeding, deforestation, climate change and transportation development are some of the causes. Previously, pathogens had little chance to enter the human body, but now they are in a golden age of contact and spread. So, the emergence of a new infectious disease is inevitable, just as it is impossible for us to return to an era of pre-civilization. Experts say the prevalence of infectious diseases and shorter cycles are not "if" but "when" problems. 

So, what are the ways to stop this pandemic? The earth is a place where humans, animals and the environment are all connected, so human beings are not able to survive infectious diseases simply by caring for the health of humans. Most new infectious diseases come from wild animals. Thus, health care providers and experts in the fields of environment, veterinary medicine and others have to cooperate with each other to control the emergence of infectious diseases at a more advanced level with an approach that seeks the health of all living things. 

I translated and published a book called "Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World," and I want to present two countermeasures. First, when an infectious disease appears, we have to actively participate in efforts to prevent its spread. The government will take the best measures it can, based on the advice of experts, so we have to cooperate with the government as much as possible. We must avoid targeting certain people and discriminating against them, even in the face of excessive anxiety. Above all, we have to reduce contact with others, manage personal hygiene well, keep public decorum and follow government rules. We should also make efforts to strengthen individual immunity and maintain our health by exercising and keeping up good sanitary habits. 

Another thing is that we should try to create a better global environment. We have to protect the environment even in ways that may inconvenience us, such as only using one paper towel to dry our hands or using fewer disposable products. In particular, quarantine training to prepare for infectious diseases is essential, similar to civil defense training to prepare for war or fires. I hope that this crisis will serve as an occasion for regular quarantine training.

The COVID-19 crisis is a real one. This is a time when we all need mature civic awareness and cooperation to overcome this pandemic and to prevent future infectious diseases from appearing and spreading.