Via the Bangkok Post: MERS 'unlikely' to spread in Asia. Excerpt:
MANILA - Asian countries should keep their guard against the deadly Middle East respiratory virus, although it is unlikely to spread to the region, a World Health Organization expert said Thursday.
The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) appears to be less infectious than originally thought even though it has already killed 287 people, said Mark Jacobs, WHO's director for communicable diseases in the Western Pacific.
The relatives of those infected have not been showing any signs of catching it, he added.
His comments come after the Philippines last week urged its large Muslim minority to reconsider plans to join the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place in Saudi Arabia, until the threat from the virus has dissipated.
But Jacobs said the virus posed little regional threat.
"A spread in our part of the world is small," Jacobs told reporters. "If the virus stays unchanged, then I think that what we have been seeing is what we will keep seeing."
The WHO said 15 countries have reported MERS cases, with the virus widely circulating in the Arabian peninsula.
Outside the Middle East, both the Philippines and neighbour Malaysia have both reported cases of patients who apparently caught the virus after travelling there.
These people had not infected others in their countries, according to a WHO report.
"We haven't seen big outbreaks in a community or anything like that to suggest that it's easy for some in the general community to be infected, (but) obviously we are keeping a close eye on that and hope that would not be the case," Jacobs said.
While there was always a chance of the virus spreading in health care facilities treating infected patients, "the risk to almost everyone in the world is extremely low".
Update: Thanks for Greg Folkers for emailing WHO's "Clarification for media: MERS." It says, in part:
Earlier today WHO met with a group of journalists in Manila to discuss some ongoing infectious disease issues including the Middle East respiratory syndrome cornoavirus (MERS-CoV). In the conversation, WHO was asked about the possible spread of MERS in Asia. Based on resulting media stories, we believe there was some misunderstanding and clarification is necessary.
Given that it is still not known how MERS spreads to people, WHO cannot predict how the virus will spread. Therefore, it is important that health authorities stay vigilant. Already at least 10 countries, including Algeria, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Tunisia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America have reported cases in returning travellers.
It must be maddening to health agencies that we still don't understand how humans contract MERS, except from other people.