[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
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.