Sunday, July 7, 2013

WHO creates emergency committee to address MERS virus threat

Egyptian medical workers wear masks as they leave the emergency section in King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, on June 16, 2013. The country has had many patients infected by MERS.


The World Health Organization is organizing an emergency committee to discuss the additional dangers the Middle East coronavirus (MERS-CoV or MERS) could pose to the international community.

WHO flu expert Keiji Fukuda said at a news conference on Friday that although MERS is not currently a public emergency or a pandemic, 40 people have died from MERS. The purpose of the panel is to discuss how to address additional issues that may occur if the disease spreads rapidly.

"We want to make sure we can move as quickly as possible if we need to," Fukuda said according to Reuters. "If in the future we do see some kind of explosion or if there is some big outbreak or we think the situation has really changed, we will already have a group of emergency committee experts who are already up to speed so we don't have to go through a steep learning curve."

A spokesperson for the WHO told that the emergency committee is part of the International Health Regulations (IHR) that were put in place in 2007. The IHR Emergency Committee consists of international experts who will advise the WHO Director-General when the medical issue becomes a "public health emergency of international concern." They also advise on temporary recommendations for travel, surveillance, clinical management, infection control. Panel members include experts in disease control, virology, vaccine development, infectious disease epidemiology and coronavirus.


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