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).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Headquarters: 185 Berry St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94107 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270

www.kff.org | Email Alerts: kff.org/email | facebook.com/KaiserFamilyFoundation | twitter.com/kff

Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.