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MERS Virus Outbreak Not a Public Health Emergency Yet

May 16, 2014
Public Health

Despite two confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus being confirmed in the United States the World Health Organisation (WHO) have said that the current outbreak is not at present a public health emergency for international concern.

On 2nd May the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta confirmed a case of the virus in a traveller from Saudi Arabia who landed in Chicago. Ten days later a second unrelated case was confirmed in a health care worker from Saudi Arabia who landed in Boston before making an onward journey to Florida via Atlanta. CDC director Dr Tom Frieden admitted it was only a matter of time before the disease spread to the US; “We’ve anticipated MERS reaching the US, and we’ve prepared for and are taking swift action,” He said. “ It reminds us that we are all connected by the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.”

The first cases of MERS were diagnosed in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012. So far there have been 570 confirmed cases in 12 countries with 171 fatalities. Most people with the virus, for which there is no available vaccine, have developed severe respiratory illness. Two cases of the virus have also now been reported in family members who travelled from Saudi Arabia to the Netherlands. It is thought both patients had underlying health issues which may have made them more susceptible to the virus.