Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WHO Emergency Committee decides today if #MERS #Coronavirus is an "Emergency"

[The information on the IHR Emergency Committee concerning Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) can be found here]  

Is MERS an emergency?  Language of IHR boxes WHO into a messaging dilemma

By Helen Branswell, The Canadian Press  
July 16, 2013

TORONTO - Would you choose the word "emergency" to describe a disease that has sickened 82 people in eight countries over the last 16 months? Would your thinking change if you knew it had killed 45 of those people? What about if you knew the virus that caused the disease is related to the one that caused SARS?

Despite the high death rate and SARS connection, it's hard to imagine many lay people would currently see the slow-but-steady MERS coronavirus outbreak as an emergency. And yet a panel of international experts — known as the Emergency Committee — is being asked whether they think the disease event meets that definition when they gather by teleconference Wednesday to assess the threat posed by the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome virus.

The experts, pulled together by the World Health Organization under powers given it by the International Health Regulations (the IHR), are expected to advise WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan on Wednesday whether she should declare MERS a "public health emergency of international concern" or PHEIC, in the jargon of the WHO. Chan doesn't have to take the advice, but it's hard to see why she would reject the guidance after asking for it.


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