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CONCERN OVER JUMP IN CASES

Mers virus not yet global emergency: WHO

Geneva, May 14, 2014

Concern about the deadly new Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) virus has "significantly increased" but the disease does not yet constitute a global public health emergency, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday.

The virus, which causes coughing, fever and sometimes fatal pneumonia, has been reported in more than 500 patients in Saudi Arabia alone and has spread to neighbouring countries and in a few cases, to Europe and Asia. It kills about 30 percent of those who are infected.

The WHO's emergency committee, which met on Tuesday, said on Wednesday that based on current information, the seriousness of the situation had increased in terms of public health impact, but that there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus.

"The committee concluded that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not yet been met," the WHO said in a statement.

However, the Committee emphasized that its concern about the situation had significantly increased. Their concerns centred on the recent sharp rise in cases; systemic weaknesses in infection prevention and control, as well as gaps in critical information; and possible exportation of cases to especially vulnerable countries.

The Committee strongly urged WHO and Member States to take immediate steps to:

•    improve national policies for infection prevention and control, and implement them in health-care facilities in all countries; this is most urgent for affected countries;

•    initiate and accelerate critical investigations, including case-control, serological, environmental, and animal studies, to better understand the epidemiology, especially risk factors and assess the effectiveness of control measures;

•    support countries that are particularly vulnerable, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, taking into account the regional challenges;

•    strengthen case and contact identification and management;

•    greatly enhance awareness and effective risk communication concerning MERS-CoV to the general public, health professionals, at-risk groups, and policy makers;

•    strengthen intersectoral collaboration and information sharing across ministries and with relevant international organizations, especially with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO);

•    develop and disseminate advice regarding mass gatherings to prevent further spread of MERS-CoV;

•    share information in a timely manner with WHO, in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005).

Mers is a virus from the same family as Sars, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed around 800 people worldwide after it first appeared in China in 2002. – TradeArabia News Service & Reuters




Tags: WHO | Virus | MERS |

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