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Worldwide Alerts

The following alerts are based on ISA's direct observation, U.S. Department of State recommendations, Overseas Security Advisory Council, WHO reports, and expert consultation.

Dominican Republic

Santiago

Friday, August 28, 2015

As of 4:00pm on August 28th, a tropical storm warning remains in effect for the Dominican Republic as Tropical Storm Erika has reached the southern coast of the country and is forecast to move through the island of Hispaniola this evening. As it approached the southern coast of the island, its sustained winds were measured at 50 mph with rainfall accumulation of 3-6". However, the National Hurricane Center reports that the storm could weaken to a tropical depression as it continues through the mountains of the island.

The effect that Erika will have on Santiago, if any, remains unknown at this time, although the city itself does not seem to be in the direct path of storm. As a precaution, the Pontificia Universidad Católica "Madre y Maestra" (PUCMM) closed its campus for the afternoon and is expected to open for classes on Monday. The ISA staff in Santiago remains in communication with all students in Santiago and will advise them as necessary.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Tropical Storm Warning is currently in effect for the Dominican Republic as heavy winds and rainfall are currently spreading across portions of the country. According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the heart of Tropical Storm Erika was approximately 65 miles from the Southern coast of the Dominican Republic as of 10:00 am CST this morning, continuing on its projected northwest track through the Caribbean. Winds were reported at 18 miles per hour (mph) with the potential for maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Officials have warned residents in the country's coastal towns of the possibility of landslides and heavy flooding in anticipation of Erika's arrival today.

At this time, it is still uncertain what the storm's effect will be in Santiago, which is approximately 100 miles from the Dominican Republic's southern coast and is not currently experiencing strong winds or heavy floods. However, given Erika's projected track, all ISA students in Santiago have been advised to remain in the city until advised otherwise. ISA staff, both domestic and in Santiago, are closely monitoring the storm's developments and will continue to advise all students accordingly, including any further precautions to take.

South Korea

Seoul

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On Tuesday, August 25th, North and South Korea reached an agreement ending the political and military confrontation which transpired over the past week. Recent heightened tensions between the two countries had been bolstered by loudspeakers blasting propaganda over the border, the exchange of artillery fire, a recent landmine blast in which two South Korean soldiers were injured, and the ongoing joint military exercise between South Korea and the U.S. It is widely reported that both North and South Korea agreed to conditions that will temper these tensions significantly. Seoul agreed to switch off the loudspeakers and North Korea expressed regret over the recent landmine blasts as part of the negotiations.

Currently, all Seoul Fall students have arrived and begun program activities as planned. ISA is very happy to learn of the agreement between the countries and does not expect to see any effects of the recent confrontation on the current ISA Seoul programs. Our staff, both domestic and in Seoul, will continue to review safety and security information in Korea and advise all students when necessary.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

On Thursday, August 20th, North Korea fired a projectile across its border into South Korea. The projectile, suspected to be a small rocket, landed in Yeoncheon County, north of the Seoul metropolitan area. South Korea responded with artillery fire aimed at the source of the North Korean rocket. Multiple news outlets report that North Korea's aggression was in response to recent anti-Pyongyang propaganda being transmitted into North Korea via loudspeaker, along with the annual military exercises (called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian) that South Korea organizes with the United States. Thursday's actions seem to have been warnings from both sides, and no damage or injuries have been reported by either country. However, in light of North Korea's potential for retaliatory military action, South Korea's military has been put on full alert, and many residents in the Yeoncheon County area have been evacuated.

Currently a small number of ISA Academic Year students and students who have arrived early for the Fall semester are on site in Seoul. Fall programs in Seoul will begin this week, with one group of students arriving on the 22nd and two groups of students arriving on the 24th of this month. ISA staff, both domestic and in Seoul, will be monitoring this situation closely and advising all students accordingly. The U.S. State Department has not issued any travel restrictions for South Korea at this time.

Thailand

Bangkok

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Monday, August 17th, a bomb exploded around 7:00pm local time at the Erawan Shrine near a busy intersection in the central commercial district of Bangkok. Multiple media outlets report at least 20 people were killed and over 120 were injured. At the time of this posting, no motive or group behind the attack has been determined, however, local police officials and investigators have identified a main suspect through the use of CCTV footage. On Tuesday, August 18th, two more explosions occurred in central Bangkok, including a bombing near Bangkok's Sathorn Pier, a popular transportation hub in the city. No casualties have been reported from the second and third explosions and local officials are still determining whether a link exists between the three blasts.

There are currently no ISA programs running in Bangkok. At present, the U.S. State Department has not placed any restrictions on travel to Thailand, but has advised U.S. citizens in Bangkok to exercise a high level of vigilance, avoid the areas of the blasts, and observe local authorities' directives. ISA staff, both domestic and in Bangkok, are continuing to monitor the situation closely and will be evaluating Bangkok's security situation in light of the Fall 2015 program, which is scheduled to begin as planned on September 4th.

South Korea

Seoul

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On July 28th, the South Korean government declared the effective end to the MERS outbreak in South Korea. Currently, no one in South Korea is under quarantine for MERS and no new cases have been confirmed since July 4th. Only one patient is still undergoing treatment for the virus. Before declaring an official end to the outbreak, World Health Organization protocol requires a 28 day period after the last patient tests negative for the virus. Due to this remaining patient, the organization will be unable to announce a formal end to MERS for some time. While no new cases are expected to be reported, the South Korean government will keep precautionary measures (such as airport screenings) in place until the WHO formally declares an end to the outbreak. All ISA programs in Seoul are planning and continuing to run as scheduled.

Friday, July 17, 2015

At the time of this posting, there have been no new MERS cases reported in South Korea since July 6th. Overall, there have been a total of 186 confirmed cases of MERS in the country. However, of these 186 cases, 133 patients have now fully recovered and been discharged from the hospital. Various news outlets did report that a total of 16 patients are still receiving treatment, and there have been 36 reported MERS-related deaths.

Approximately 150 people remain quarantined as a precautionary measure due to possible exposure to the virus and that number continues to rapidly decrease as all quarantined people are being released from isolation after 14 days without showing symptoms of the infection.

If no new cases are reported, the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare is likely to declare an official end to the MERS outbreak in early August. ISA Summer programs in Seoul are continuing to run without interruption. ISA Seoul staff, along with ISA's U.S.-based Health, Safety, and Security office, will continue to monitor the situation and make recommendations to students as necessary.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Following an Emergency Committee meeting on Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement affirming that the MERS outbreak in South Korea was not severe enough to warrant any global measures being taken. This included recommending against the application of any travel restrictions or screening at entry points. The South Korean health ministry did report the country?s 20th MERS-related death and a total number of 162 cases on Wednesday, however, the South Korean government reiterated that the virus has been primarily contained to hospitals and a decline in the outbreak by the end of June is predicted.

The WHO also stressed the importance of raising awareness about MERS and its symptoms among travelers to and from affected areas. Accordingly, ISA is continuing to keep all current and upcoming Seoul summer students informed of appropriate measures to safeguard against the virus and all programs are proceeding as planned.

To view the whole statement please consult the following link:
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2015/ihr-ec-mers/en/

Thursday, June 11, 2015

As of June 11th, South Korea confirmed the 10th death and 122 cases of MERS as a result of the current outbreak. The South Korean government has now placed over 2,800 people under quarantine. Numerous news outlets report the primary source for the growth in the outbreak as being contact with MERS-infected individuals in Korean hospitals, while the WHO considers healthcare workers and those frequenting hospitals to be at greatest risk. ISA is continuing to advise all current and upcoming summer program students in Seoul on recommended measures to protect themselves from the illness. Neither the WHO, CDC, nor U.S. State Department has recommended any sort of travel ban or regulation for South Korea. MERS remains at a Watch Level 1, the lowest alert level on the CDC's current notices, with a general message to practice usual precautions. All ISA Seoul Programs are scheduled to proceed without interruption.

Monday, June 8, 2015

On Monday, South Korea confirmed the sixth death from MERS, an 80-year old man, and also confirmed 87 cases of the illness to date. The government has now placed approximately 2,500 people under quarantine, either at home or in health facilities and more than 1,800 schools are temporarily closed. Most of these quarantines continue to be healthcare professionals or hospital visitors and the U.S. State Department noted in a message to American citizens in South Korea that all patients in Korea acquired their illness in hospital settings where they came in contact with other MERS patients.

The ISA Seoul resident staff is continuing to advise all ISA students in Seoul on recommended measures to protect themselves from the illness, including avoiding unnecessary visits to hospitals. Furthermore, ISA students in Seoul have been instructed to notify our Seoul resident staff of any health issue that may require a clinic or hospital visit so staff may direct them appropriately. MERS remains at a Watch Level 1, the lowest alert level on the CDC's current notices, with a general message to practice usual precautions.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

As of June 4, 2015, South Korean authorities have confirmed 36 cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) throughout the country. The first reported case was documented by Korean authorities on Wednesday, May 20th. To prevent further spreading, the South Korean government has currently placed approximately 1,600 people under quarantine in their homes or state-run facilities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MERS is an illness caused by a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Since the very first case of the virus was reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, it has mostly been contained to countries in the Arabian Peninsula. MERS-CoV has spread from infected people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. Accordingly, those at greatest risk are healthcare professionals or anyone else directly tending to an infected patient. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) sees no need for implementing any special screenings at points of entry, nor travel or trade restrictions in South Korea. The U.S. Department of State has not issued a travel warning for South Korea.

ISA students have been advised about the facts of MERS and given important safety tips for prevention. The ISA Seoul resident staff remains in close communication with our host universities, and classes have been carrying on as scheduled. ISA Seoul staff, along with ISA's U.S.-based Health, Safety, and Security office, will continue to monitor the situation and make recommendations to students as necessary. All ISA Seoul programs are scheduled to proceed without interruption.

To learn more about MERS, please consult the CDC and WHO websites:
http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/index.html
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/situation-assessments/2-june-2015-south-korea/en/

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For further information, please refer to ISA's Health and Safety section, particularly the information regarding the monitoring of world-wide security levels.