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

Video British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid