Geneva, July 6 — The World Health Organisation (WHO) will convene an emergency committee next week on the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a top WHO official said.
WHO Assistant Director-General for health security and environment Keiji Fukuda said there was currently no emergency or pandemic, but many things about the disease remained unknown such as the animal reservoir.
“I do want to stress that there are a lot of things that we do not know. For example, one of the key pieces of missing information is that are there many people who have mild infections or asymptomatic infections that we are missing,” Xinhua quoted Fukuda as saying.
He said such information would be vital for the understanding of the transmission and epidemiology of the disease.
He also listed three possibilities of the disease’s future development — simply fading away, the ongoing pattern continuing for some period of time or more cases or outbreaks appearing.
Fukuda said that based on the current situation and gaps in knowledge, WHO decided to convene an International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee next week.
The IHR emergency committee on MERS-CoV would be the second committee to be set up under WHO rules which came into force in 2007. The first committee was convened in response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
The committee would be provided with information that WHO has and then review the situation, with part of input coming from countries with cases which could directly tell the committee members their perspectives and concerns, Fukuda said.
It would then be asked to provide views on whether the event constitutes a public health emergency of international concern and whether should WHO make additional temporary recommendations beyond what has already set.
Media reports say the coronavirus has been found mostly in Saudi Arabia. The virus was discovered in September 2012, and is said to cause flu-like symptoms and also kidney failure.
There has been 77 confirmed cases and at least 43 deaths. Most of the cases came from an unidentified animal source. Cases have been detected in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Travellers from France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain have also been infected, reports said.