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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
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 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