WHO: MERS Still Not a Global Emergency

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The Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus has infected more than 500 people, according to the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia. The rising rates of new cases, both in the country and abroad has caused concerns among health experts about a huge global outbreak. However, after holding a meeting in Geneva, the special World health Organization committee said that MERS does still not constitute a global public health emergency.

The virus, first identified in September 2012, has been reported in over 500 people in Saudi Arabia only, killing nearly a third of them. It causes coughing, shortness of breath, fever and often pneumonia, which can be fatal, especially if the patient is older, suffering from a chronic health condition, or a child. The MERS coronavirus is from the same “family” as SARS, which caused a global pandemic a decade ago, but is less contagious; at least it was until couple of months ago. For an year and a half, the disease had spread to less than 200 people, many of whom susceptible to infections. However, the new cases increased significantly in the several past months, creating a serious situation in Saudi Arabia, the country with the most MERS infections so far.

Authorities in the kingdom have taken steps to limit the spread of the deadly virus by issuing recommendations for medical workers, travelers and people handling camels. It seems government bodies are determined to cope with the problem by taking various measures, including placing electronic chips to all camels, which will contain information on the breed and country of origin. With this move, the Ministry of Agriculture will track the spread of the deadly virus, which is believed to be contracted by domesticated camels. And the latest measure is initiated by the Education Ministry – all schools in the kingdom will set up health clinics, stocked with midicines and medical equipment for better prevention and early detection of the virus.

The decisions of the WHO emergency committee were just announced at a news conference. The last time such committee was set by the agency, was during the 2009’s H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic.

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