FRIDAY, March 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Vietnam. South Korea. Taiwan.
All three countries are placed uncomfortably close to China, the initial epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic that’s now swept across the world.
But they also have one other thing in common: They’ve each managed to contain their COVID-19 infections, preventing the new coronavirus from reaching epidemic proportions within their borders.
How did they did so might provide lessons to the United States and elsewhere, experts say.
Reacting early was key.
South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam each recognized the novel coronavirus as a threat from the outset, and aggressively tested suspected cases and tracked potential new infections, public health experts said.
“Finding cases and isolating them so they’re not transmitting forward — that’s the tried and true way of controlling an infectious disease outbreak, and when you analyze what was done in many Asian countries, you will find that at its core,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.
The first cases of what is now called COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, China, in early to mid-December, linked to a live animal and seafood market located next to a major train station.
Most of the world took a watch-and-wait approach, but not Vietnam, said Ravina Kullar, an infectious diseases researcher and epidemiologist with Expert Stewardship Inc. in Newport Beach, Calif.
“They actually started preparing for this on Dec. 31. They were testing on Dec. 31,” Kullar said. “They were proactive, and that I think is a key to preventing epidemics. They were overly cautious, and that really benefited the country.”
Vietnamese government officials also began hosting press conferences at least once a day, where they supplied honest and forthright information about the status of the coronavirus.
“They were very open and honest with the citizens of Vietnam, and that really served them well,” Kullar said.
There have been just 153 confirmed cases in Vietnam, which has a population of more than 96 million, according to Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracking.