For those of you (like us) caught up in the fourth festivities, the World Health Organization (WHO) laid out plans late last week to convene an emergency committee to address the growing threat of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The committee will pull together experts from across the public health fields for a telephone meeting tomorrow. The primary purpose of the committee at this point is as an information exchange. Key details of the virus’ mechanism of action, including the primary host, remain unknown. Once established, the committee would have the power to provide recommended travel restrictions and take other preparatory actions to prevent the virus’ spread.
Although the person-to-person spread of the virus remains limited, it is critical than a strategy for containment is established before Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage which will bring millions to Saudi Arabia this October. Discussing the WHO’s concerns over the upcoming influx of international travelers, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment Dr. Keiji Fukuda stated, “we’re always worried in a globalized world that infection can travel quickly from one country to another,” but that given the sporadic pattern of infection, restricting travel is not yet recommended.
For the full transcript of the Friday press conference, see here.
(image courtesy of WHO)