Robert Roos at CIDRAP writes: WHO panel still sees no MERS emergency. Excerpt:
With the recent surge of MERS-CoV cases in Saudi Arabia now subsiding, the World Health Organization's (WHO's) MERS-CoV emergency committee decided that the situation still does not amount to an international public health emergency, though it remains a serious worry, the WHO announced today.
At the same time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced its finding that the first two US cases of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) did not kindle any additional cases among the patients' close contacts.
Also, the WHO said it is unclear whether the MERS case reported Jun 15 in Bangladesh is a real case and that confirmatory testing is under way. If confirmed, the case would be the country's first.
No emergency declaration
The WHO's International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee on MERS-CoV met yesterday in Geneva to review the latest developments. Keiji Fukuda, MD, the agency' assistant secretary-general for health security and environment, announced its findings in a press teleconference early today.
"Based on the current information, the emergency committee agreed that the situation continues to remain serious," he said. "However, they also noted that the recent upsurge in cases which started taking off about April has significantly decreased."
The committee observed that affected countries have made significant efforts to improve infection prevention and control measures and that there is no evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission of MERS-CoV in communities, Fukuda said.
"On the basis of those lines of information the committee assessed that the current situation does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern," he said.
But MERS is still a serious concern, particularly in view of the upcoming increase in travel to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimages, the WHO said.
Fukuda noted the previously reported conclusion that the recent MERS surge was largely fueled by hospital outbreaks that were triggered by infection-control lapses. "The committee focused much of its attention on the need to analyze what's happening in hospital outbreaks and where infection prevention and control measures are not working," he said.
He said the committee learned that patients not yet diagnosed often wait in crowded settings where infection control may be a problem. But he added that efforts being made by national authorities to improve infection prevention measures seem to be paying off, contributing to the recent decrease in cases.
Yesterday's committee meeting was the sixth since it was created in 2013. Each time the group has concluded that MERS-CoV did not meet the definition of an international health emergency.