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WHO Meets Global Experts Over MERS Scare

WHO Meets Global Experts Over MERS Scare

Meeting will be held to discuss whether to elevate the status of the virus.

A meeting will be held between WHO and international health experts to determine whether to raise the status of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) to a “public heath emergency of international concern.”

WHO released a statement on Sunday saying “several urgent actions are needed” and that many questions regarding the virus remain unanswered.

Elevation of the status will see the implementation of the same rules and regulations implemented in the 2009 pandemic strain of influenza that killed 18,000.

“Countries also need to assess their level of preparedness and readiness if this virus should spread,” said the organisation.

“Countries [must] increase their levels of awareness among all people but especially among staff working in their health systems and increase their levels of surveillance about this new infection,” added the organisation.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia – the worst affected by the virus – confirmed that five more infected people had died, bringing the total MERS death toll in the Kingdom to 147 – of the 491 confirmed cases. There have also been sporadic cases across the Middle East, as well as in Europe, Asia, and now the United States.

However, till present there has been no evidence that the disease can spread from person to person and a quarter of the outbreaks have been linked to people in the health sector.

First reported two years ago in Saudi Arabia, MERS is a coronavirus like SARS, which originated in animals and killed around 800 people worldwide after first appearing in China in 2002. There is no vaccine or anti-viral treatment against it.

There have been theories of the MERS virus transmitting to humans from camels, and in a recent statement, Saudi’s Agriculture Ministry advised people not to come into contact with camels unless necessary and to wash hands before and after if they did.

“It is advisable to wear protective gloves, especially when dealing with births or sick or dead (camels),” it said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. It also advised only eating cooked camel meat and to boil camel milk before consuming it.

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