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PLoS One. 2017 Mar 8;12(3):e0173234. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173234. eCollection 2017.

Worry experienced during the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) pandemic in Korea.

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Department of Infectious Disease, Research Center of Infectious and Environmental Disease, Armed forces medical research institute, Daejeon, South Korea.
Department of Health Policy and Management, College of Medicine, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea.
Institute of Health Policy and Management, Medical Research Center, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea.



Korea failed in its risk communication during the early stage of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak; consequently, it faced difficulties in managing MERS, while disease-related worry increased. Disease-related worry can help disease prevention and management, but can also have a detrimental effect. This study measured the overall level of disease-related worry during the MERS outbreak period in Korea and the influencing factors and levels of disease-related worry during key outbreak periods.


The cross-sectional survey included 1,000 adults who resided in Korea. An ordinal logistic regression was performed for the overall level of MERS-related worry, and influencing factors of worry were analyzed. A reliability test was performed on the levels of MERS-related worry during key outbreak periods.


The overall level of MERS-related worry was 2.44. Multivariate analysis revealed that women and respondents w very poor subjective health status had higher levels of worry. Respondents with very high stress in daily life had higher levels of worry than those who reported having little stress. The reliability test results on MERS-related worry scores during key outbreak periods showed consistent scores during each period.


Level of worry increased in cases having higher perceived susceptibility and greater trust in informal information, while initial stage of outbreak was closely associated with that at later stages. These findings suggest the importance of managing the level of worry by providing timely and accurate disease-related information during the initial stage of disease outbreak.

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