Wednesday, July 17, 2013

#MERS Virus Not Yet a Global Emergency, WHO Panel Says

hat-tip Helen Branswell
on 17 July 2013

A special panel established by the World Health Organization (WHO) decided today that the novel coronavirus that has been infecting people in the Middle East is "very concerning," but does not yet constitute a "public health emergency of international concern."


Under a global agreement known as the International Health Regulations, the panel's declaration of an emergency would give WHO the power to issue recommendations on addressing MERS.
After convening by telephone for 4 hours this afternoon, the panel unanimously decided that the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern had not been met—so far.

The committee decided that "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, at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland. In part, the decision reflected the negative effects an emergency declaration could also have, he noted. "You want to make these declarations when they are proportionate to the event."

The panel made the right call, says Mike Osterholm, director at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. But he worries that some people could take the decision to mean that there is nothing to worry about. "We have this unfortunate nomenclature that has been given to us," he tells ScienceInsider. "And it is either a yes or a no." 


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