News / Middle East

Spike in MERS Raises Concerns about Precautions

FILE - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows novel coronavirus particles, also known as the MERS virus, colorized in yellow.
FILE - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows novel coronavirus particles, also known as the MERS virus, colorized in yellow.
Elizabeth Arrott
A spike in the cases of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in Saudi Arabia has alarmed international health officials. But regionally, authorities are offering few preventative measures for the MERS virus.
 
Saudi Arabia announced two more MERS-related deaths and two new infections Thursday, one day after the World Health Organization renewed concerns about the dramatic jump in the number of victims in recent days.

Health ministries from Saudi Arabia to Egypt have tried to downplay the threat of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
 
The coronavirus, which proves fatal to about one-third of its victims, first appeared in Saudi Arabia two years ago. Saudi officials report nearly 300 people have come down with the disease's pneumonia-like symptoms since then. More than 50 of those cases have been reported in the past week.
 
Regional authorities there say there is no cause for alarm or need to impose preventative measures such as travel restrictions.

Doctor Amr Kandeel, chief of Egypt’s Health Ministry’s Preventative Sector, says his agency has set up screening sites across the country to check suspected cases.

“The total sample examined from human cases is about 8,500 cases, and all these samples were negative to the virus corona," said Kandeel.
 
But Kandeel said the probability for a MERS outbreak remains, given frequent travel by Egyptians to Saudi Arabia’s religious sites and workers throughout the region.

He also notes the virus is present in some Egyptian camels.
 
​The disease, believed to have crossed over to humans from camels, first appeared only to be passed through close contact with the animals. But recently, health workers treating people with MERS have themselves fallen ill.
 
Cases tied to human-to-human contact have also spread to other parts of the Gulf and as far afield as Europe and Malaysia, raising concerns the virus may be either reaching a tipping point or mutating.
 
Part of the lack of urgency on prevention may be tied to “virus-fatigue” — scares tied to other viruses, including avian flu, which did not live up to warnings they could mutate into more transmissible form.
 
Much remains unknown about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Earlier this week, Saudi Health Minister Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Rabia conceded as much, even while arguing against the need for aggressive preventative measures.
 
“Hopefully we will reach to an idea to why the surge is in April and May," said al-Rabia. "Could it be that this season is the best for the virus? I have no idea.”
 
The next day, the minister was replaced. No reason was given, but with Saudi Arabia expecting millions of visitors in the coming months — during Ramadan in July and the Hajj in October — it is a possible sign the threat is being taken more seriously.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More