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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid