Obama Administration Says MERS-CoV Poses Public Health Threat

“The Obama administration on Tuesday designated a respiratory disease now found in the Middle East a threat to public health and national security,” The Hill’s “Healthwatch” blog reports (Wilson, 6/4). According to CIDRAP News, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the designation in a May 29 statement, saying the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) “poses ‘a significant potential for a public health emergency that has a significant potential to affect national security or the health and security of United States citizens living abroad'” (Roos, 6/4). The move allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to quickly approve treatments and tests for the virus, which has infected at least 54 individuals since April 2012, according to the WHO, The Hill notes (6/4). “The statement does not mean that the United States faces a public health emergency with regard to MERS now, said Elleen Kane, a spokeswoman for the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response,” according to CIDRAP (6/4).