An emergency panel of public health experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) this week concluded that the emerging novel coronavirus, known as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV), is “very concerning” but does not yet merit a global emergency status.
Should MERS achieve the official Public Health Emergency of International Concern status in the future, the WHO would then have the power under International Health Regulations (IHR) to issue recommendations to governments such as restrictions on travel.
The emerging virus has sickened 84 people, nearly half of which have died. The high mortality rate and important unanswered questions about the virus’s animal reservoir and transmissibility factors have set the biosurveillance community on alert.
The WHO is facing some criticism for sending mixed messages on the severity of the situation. Just this May, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan called MERS-CoV “a threat to the entire world” at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
“This was not the time to go ahead with such a declaration but to monitor the situation very closely,” said Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment. “Making such a declaration under the IHR would send a very strong political signal around the world, that this is something that needs the highest level of attention. You want to make those declarations when they are proportional to the event.”
Read more at Science: MERS Virus Not Yet a Global Emergency, WHO Panel Says
Read more at CIDRAP: MERS-CoV Not an Emergency, Experts Tell WHO