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Yesterday, the World Health Organization reported six new cases of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus infection (MERS-CoV) were confirmed in the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Although the number of infected people is constantly increasing, experts from WHO say that the infection does not constitute a global public health emergency.
Health authorities in the two Middle Eastern countries have reported two cases in Saudi Arabia and and four in the UAE. The two cases in the kingdom have been detected in a 26-year-old man and a 42-year-old female healthcare worker in the Asir region and according to WHO, they both have mild symptoms, and are not even hospitalized. Another four healthcare workers in two hospitals in Abu Dhabi have been infected with MERS. Two of them didn’t develop any symptoms, and the other two have mild upper respiratory symptoms, but according to the reports are in a stable condition.
With these six new cases, the overall number of global MERS infections jumps to 88, including 45 deaths. Most of the cases have been registered in Saudi Arabia, but the infection has also been diagnosed in the UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Tunisia, Italy, France, Germany and the UK. Experts from WHO gathered last week under the International Health Regulations to discuss the seriousness of the MERS situation. The Emergency Committee said that the new, SARS-like virus is very worrying, but it isn’t public health emergency “of international concern”.
However, many experts say millions of people are expected to travel to Saudi Arabia in October during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Saudi Arabia is now urging people, especially the elderly, and those with chronic diseases to postpone their Hajj. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health in Abu Dhabi said it is following all international recommendations related to isolation of the infected patients, prevention, and surveillance. Officials also said that the virus is not a serious concern to the public health, so no travel restrictions will be required.