Monday, September 30, 2013

Additional MERS Infections Reported; WHO Declines to Raise Warning Level

WHO spokesman discusses MERS virus on CNN
The Saudi Health Ministry has reported three more MERS cases in Riyadh bringing the total to 114 in that country and 133 world wide, if confirmed by the World Health Organization. There are an additional 17 probable cases. Middle east Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS has killed 58 of those infected, or about 50%.

The latest victims are elderly and all suffer from chronic medical conditions. They are currently in intensive care.

On September 25, WHO released the findings of the third meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee concerning MERS-CoV by teleconference. Saudi Arabia and Qatar presented information on the outbreaks in their countries.

The Emergency Committee consists of experts and makes recommendations to the Director General on public health emergencies of international concern and measures member states can implement to control the spread of the disease. The WHO considers a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) to be:
"an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response”. 
The Committee did not feel that conditions had been met to raise alerts to that level. The report states:
"The Committee concluded that it saw no reason to change its advice to the Director-General. Based on the current information, and using a risk-assessment approach, it was the unanimous decision of the Committee that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not at present been met."
Although the committee did not raise the warning level, they repeated the importance for health officials to continue vigilance in identifying and reporting suspected cases through:
  • Strengthening surveillance, especially in countries with pilgrims participating in Umrah and the Hajj;
  • Continuing to increase awareness and effective risk communication concerning MERS-CoV, including with pilgrims;
  • Supporting countries that are particularly vulnerable, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa taking into account the regional challenges;
  • Increasing relevant diagnostic testing capacities;
  • Continuing with investigative work, including identifying the source of the virus and relevant exposures through case control studies and other research; and
  • Timely sharing of information in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005) and ongoing active coordination with WHO. 
The public is advised to follow common hygiene procedures and wash hands, cover coughs and sneezes, avoid unneeded contact with wild or domestic animals and avoid eating uncooked meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables.

No comments:

Post a Comment