WHO says MERS is a 'wake-up call', but not a global emergency

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jun 17, 2015 4:00 AM

GENEVA/LONDON (Reuters) - An outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea shows how deadly infectious diseases may strike at any time, but MERS is not yet a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

In a statement after a meeting of its emergency committee on MERS, the WHO said the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern have not been met.

"This outbreak is a wake-up call and (shows) that in a highly mobile world, all countries should always be prepared for the unanticipated possibility of outbreaks of this, and other serious infectious diseases," the Geneva-based United Nations health agency said.

Global health regulations define a public health emergency of international concern as an extraordinary event that poses a risk to other WHO member states through the international spread of disease, and which may require a coordinated international response.

The MERS virus, which causes coughing, fever and can lead to fatal pneumonia and kidney failure, has been reported mainly in Saudi Arabia and South Korea, but has also been imported in travelers to at least 25 countries worldwide. It kills about 38 percent of those it infects.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nevehay in Geneva and Kate Kelland in London, editing by Hugh Lawson)