MERS Virus Not A ‘Public Health Emergency,’ WHO Emergency Committee Declares

“The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS) is not a ‘public health emergency of international concern,’ the emergency committee of the [WHO] said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports (Nebehay, 7/17). “The committee felt that the ‘dramatic action’ of declaring an emergency would be disproportionate and might do more harm than good, said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and environment,” CIDRAP News writes, noting, “The panel’s recommendation was unanimous” (Roos, 7/17). “The decision followed the second meeting of the agency’s ’emergency committee’ of outside experts to assess the risks of the virus,” according to the New York Times (McNeil, 7/17).

“The so-called emergency committee of public health experts, which WHO established on July 5, met for the first time last week,” Science Insider notes, adding, “The 15-member panel was tasked with keeping a close eye on MERS and determining whether it posed risks serious enough to justify WHO recommending that governments limit travel or take other steps to prevent MERS from spreading” (Kupferschmidt, 7/17). “The previously unknown virus has infected at least 82 people and killed 45 since September, according to the WHO,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports, adding, “While most cases have been detected in [Saudi Arabia], infections in the U.K., France, Germany and Italy have sparked concern of a global outbreak like the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS] in 2003” (Bennett, 7/17).