MERS is an increasing concern says WHO

Published: Tuesday, 08 September 2015 10:04

The tenth meeting of the World Health Organization’s Middle East respiratory syndrome Emergency Committee was held by teleconference on 2nd September 2015. During the meeting the WHO Secretariat provided an update to the Committee on epidemiological and scientific developments , including recent cases and transmission patterns in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The Secretariat also provided current risk assessments with regard to these events, and information on control and prevention measures.

The Committee noted that progress is not yet sufficient to control the threat of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and until this is achieved individual countries and the global community will remain at significant risk for further outbreaks.  It was agreed that the situation still does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) but Committee members emphasised that they have a heightened sense of concern about the overall MERS situation.

The threat is currently exacerbated because an outbreak is occurring close to the start of the Hajj and many pilgrims will return to countries with weak surveillance and health systems. The recent outbreak in the Republic of Korea demonstrated that when the MERS virus appears in a new setting, there is great potential for widespread transmission and severe disruption to the health system and to society.

The Committee further noted that its advice has not been completely followed. Asymptomatic cases that have tested positive for the virus are not always being reported as required. Timely sharing of detailed information of public health importance, including from research studies conducted in the affected countries, and virological surveillance, remains limited and has fallen short of expectations.

The meeting concluded that there is no public health justification for implementing any measures to prevent the spread of MERS through the restriction of travel or trade. Screening at points of entry is considered unnecessary at this time. However, raising awareness about MERS and its symptoms among those travelling to and from affected areas, particularly in light of the Hajj, is strongly advised.

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