WHO holds meeting to discuss MERS

MERSThe World Health Organization is holding a meeting in Geneva today, to discuss the latest developments related to the MERS coronavirus.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, is a member of the coronavirus family, like SARS which first appeared in China in 2002.

Both strains of the virus are believed to have originated first in animals, then mutated to infect humans.

First reported two years ago in Saudi Arabia, MERS causes fever, pneumonia and even kidney failure.

Cases have also been detected elsewhere in the Middle East, including the UAE, as well as in Europe and now two cases in the United States.

Around a quarter of the 480 people who have been diagnosed with MERS in Saudi Arabia, have died from it.

A spokesman for the World Health Organisation, Tarik Jasarevic, said they recently sent an expert team to KSA to study the latest developments in transmission of the disease.

jasarevic“We had a team of experts that visited a couple of weeks ago Saudi Arabia, looking into why this latest surge and whether there was any specific change in the transmissibility of the viruses.”

Although many patients in a recent outbreak in Jeddah appear to have caught the disease in hospitals, MERS has been found in bats and camels, and many experts believe camels are the animal from which humans are becoming infected.

Last week, the WHO advised people at most risk of severe disease to avoid contact with camels; take precautions when visiting places where the animals are present and to avoid drinking raw milk.

At today’s meeting in Geneva, a committee will review the situation in affected countries, and look at the report by the expert team.

“The recent surge in number of cases that we have seen in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as some cases that have been exported to other countries, raised public concern and raised questions whether the virus has changed in any way and this is what members of emergency committee will be looking into,” said Jasarevic.

Based on today’s meeting, the committee will consider the experts’ report and advise the director-general on next steps.

As broadcast on Emirates News.