MERS-CoV Update

Third meeting of WHO Emergency Committee says still no need for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern



The third meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the Director- General under the International Health Regulations (2005) [IHR (2005)] was held by teleconference on Wednesday, 25 September 2013.

During the informational session, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar presented on recent developments in their countries. The WHO Secretariat provided an update on epidemiological developments, Hajj and Umrah and recent WHO activities related to MERS-CoV.

The Committee reviewed and deliberated on the information provided. The Committee concluded that it saw no reason to change its advice to the Director-General. Based on the current information, and using a risk-assessment approach, it was the unanimous decision of the Committee that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not at present been met. While not considering the events to constitute a PHEIC, Members of the Committee reiterated their prior advice for consideration by WHO and Member States and emphasized the importance of:

- Strengthening surveillance, especially in countries with pilgrims participating in Umrah and the Hajj;

- Continuing to increase awareness and effective risk communication concerning MERS-CoV, including with pilgrims;

- Supporting countries that are particularly vulnerable, especially in Sub- Saharan Africa taking into account the regional challenges;

- Increasing relevant diagnostic testing capacities; l Continuing with investigative work, including identifying the source of the virus and relevant exposures through case control studies and other research;

- Timely sharing of information in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005) and ongoing active coordination with WHO.

The WHO Secretariat will continue to provide regular updates to the Members, and currently anticipates reconvening the Committee in late November 2013. Any serious new developments may require re-convening the Committee before then.

Latest laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV

As of 18 October the latest laboratory confirmed case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is that of a 61-year-old man in Qatar with underlying medical conditions who was admitted to a hospital on 11 October 2013. At the time of writing he was hospitalized in a stable condition. The patient was tested positive for MERS-CoV infection in Qatar and was confirmed by the reference laboratory of Public Health England.

According to WHO, preliminary investigations revealed that the patient had not travelled outside Qatar in the two weeks prior to becoming ill. The patient owns a farm and has had significant contact with the animals, including camels, sheep and hens. Some of the animals in his farm have been tested and were negative for MERS-CoV.

Further investigations into the case and the animals in the farm are ongoing. Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 139 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 60 deaths.

In Saudi Arabia, the latest cases include two men aged 55 and 78, from Riyadh region. They became ill at the end of September 2013 and died in the beginning of October 2013. Both the patients were reported to have had no contact to a known laboratory-confirmed case with MERS-CoV.


 Date of upload: 20th Nov 2013


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