After meeting for five hours in an emergency meeting the World Health Organization announced that the new deadly MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) virus is causing a “significant increase” in concern but does not yet qualify as a global public health emergency- Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC.)
“The committee concluded that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not yet been met,” the WHO said in a statement.
There have already been 500 cases reported in Saudi Arabia alone, and has been spreading to other Middle Eastern countries. There have been some cases in Europe and Asia as well. MERS causes fever, coughing, and fatal pneumonia in about 30 percent of those contracting the virus.
The WHO, which is an arm of the United Nations, emphasized the necessity for countries where MERS has struck to take immediate action which will prevent the spread of infection and prevention against infection.
“This is most urgent for affected countries,” the WHO’s statement said. They also urged for more scientific investigation to get a better understanding of the risk factors contributing to the diseases spread.
Keiji Fukuda, the assistant director general for health security for the WHO said that the reason for not declaring MERS emergency was that there is no evidence to suggest that the virus was passing more easily from person to person, despite the increase in the number of cases.
An additional concern is that the disease has already spread to North America. US health officials announced that two health workers returning from Saudi Arabia have come down with the illness in a Florida hospital after being exposed to a patient in Saudi Arabia with a confirmed case of MERS. The health workers are reported to have come down with flu symptoms.