News / Health

WHO: MERS Virus of Concern Before Haj, Surge Abating

FILE - Muslim pilgrims wear surgical masks to prevent infection from respiratory virus known as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
FILE - Muslim pilgrims wear surgical masks to prevent infection from respiratory virus known as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Reuters
The deadly MERS virus remains a serious public health problem, especially with the approach of haj pilgrimages, but a recent surge in Saudi cases of the respiratory disease appears to be abating, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.
 
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, which causes coughing, fever and sometimes fatal pneumonia, has been reported in more than 800 patients, mainly in Saudi Arabia.
 
It has spread to neighboring countries and, in a few cases, to Europe, Asia and the United States. At least 315 people worldwide have died from the disease.
 
In a statement issued after the 6th meeting of its MERS emergency committee, the WHO said a surge in cases in Saudi Arabia that began in April has now decreased and “there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission in communities”.
 
“There have been significant efforts made to strengthen infection prevention and control measures,” it said. As a result, “the committee unanimously concluded that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not yet been met”.
 
Global health regulations define a PHEIC as an extraordinary event that poses a risk to other WHO member states through the international spread of disease, and which may require a coordinated international response.
 
The WHO stressed, however, that the MERS situation continued to be “of concern”, especially given an anticipated increase in travel to Saudi Arabia related to the pilgrimages and religious festivals of Umra, Ramadan and the haj.
 
The WHO's assistant director general for health security, Keiji Fukuda, said the committee had urged vulnerable countries, especially those in Africa, to take concrete action ahead of  Umra, Ramadan and haj with basic public health measures such as conducting surveillance for MERS, raising awareness about it and implementing basic infection prevention and control measures.
 
Millions of people travel to Mecca each year for the haj, the pilgrimage which all Muslims must perform at least once in their lifetime, if they are able. This year's will take place in October.
 
Unfortunate and tragic
 
David Heyman, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the most prominent critics of Riyadh's handling of the MERS outbreak, said it was “unfortunate and tragic” that people are still getting infected, getting sick and dying form the virus almost two full years after it was first identified in humans.
 
“Case control studies, where risk factors for transmission of this virus from nature to humans, are necessary and could help determine the way or ways in which people are becoming infected, and this information could be used to stop primary infections,” he said.
 
Fukuda said such studies were now in the process of being carried out in Saudi Arabia, and welcomed fresh efforts by authorities there to get on top of the outbreak.
 
MERS has been linked to camels, which many scientists think may be a major source of infection in people. Hundreds of new MERS infections were contracted by patients and health workers in hospitals in Saudi Arabia during recent months.
 
The Kingdom was previously criticized by the WHO and by public health experts for failing to implement basic hygiene and infection control measures in hospitals - allowing the virus to spread in clusters of health workers - and for failing to accurately track and report MERS cases.
 
International concerns over Saudi handling of the outbreak grew earlier this month when it said it had under-reported cases by a fifth.
 
But Fukuda said he was now confident Saudi authorities were taking MERS very seriously and working hard to control it.
 
“The Saudi government has made an extensive effort really to catch up on all the numbers and to provide them as quickly as possible,” he told reporters on a teleconference from the WHO's Geneva. “I see a big amount of improvement taking place”.

You May Like

Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: eusebio manuel vestias from: Portugal
June 18, 2014 12:18 PM
Stop virus MERS Saudi Arabia

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursionsi
X
Zlatica Hoke
August 28, 2014 4:07 AM
Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursions

Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid