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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs