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WHO Committee Calls For Increased MERS-CoV Surveillance During Hajj, Stops Short Of Declaring ‘Public Health Emergency’

“A [WHO] emergency committee on Wednesday asked countries to step up monitoring for [the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)] as Muslim pilgrims from around the world return home from the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia, home to most of the victims so far,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “[T]he hajj draws more than three million pilgrims from dozens of countries for worship in the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina,” the newspaper notes (Knickmeyer, 9/25). Despite the concerns over MERS-CoV addressed during the meeting, “the committee decided against calling the outbreak a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’: a situation that requires a certain level of immediate, coordinated international action,” the Los Angeles Times writes (Brown, 9/25). This decision by the committee “reaffirmed its earlier finding that the status of [MERS-CoV] does not currently represent a global public health emergency,” according to CIDRAP News (Roos, 9/25).

“Health officials have yet to determine how MERS, which typically causes respiratory infections, and sometimes kidney problems, infects humans,” the Wall Street Journal writes (9/25). “We’re still early in our understanding of how to put this together,” Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director general for health security and environment, said during a conference call with reporters, the Los Angeles Times reports (9/25). In another article, the Wall Street Journal examines the response to MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia (Knickmeyer/McKay, 9/24).