Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health
May 29, 2013
Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization,
closed the annual World Health Assembly this week [May 27] sounding
alarm about a new SARS-like virus circulating primarily in Saudi Arabia.
"My greatest concern right now is the novel coronavirus," Chan warned
the representatives of two hundred nations gathered in Geneva. "We do
not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are
getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty-handed
when it comes to prevention."
But impeding an effective response is a dispute over rights to
develop a treatment for the virus. The case brings to the fore a growing
debate over International Health Regulations, interpretations of patent
rights, and the free exchange of scientific samples and information.
Meanwhile, the epidemic has aleady caused forty-nine cases in seven
countries, killing twenty-seven of them.