MERS virus threat: WHO okays travel to S/Arabia, others

Posted: July 25, 2013 in travel & tourism

World Health Organisation (WHO) files no restrictions on tourism and travel or a requirement of health alert for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coroanovirus (MERS-CoV). WHO has not recommended any MERS-related travel restrictions, but says countries should monitor unusual respiratory infection patterns. The first recorded MERS death was in June last year in Saudi Arabia.

MERS-CoV is a viral infection that causes breathlessness and fever. There is a mounting concern about a potential impact on October’s Haj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to and from Saudi Arabia. It was from here that the infection and death were first reported in June 2012.

Since then the disease has claimed 45 lives across the globe and a total of 82 cases have been reported worldwide. Sixty-five of these cases have been reported from the Gulf region and most of the diseased had travelled to Saudi Arabia which also accounts for 38 of the total confirmed MERS deaths.

“No special alert has been sent out either by the WHO or the health ministry for the disease. Though our health officials are aware of the situation, there are no specific precautions related to MERS as of now. We are being vigilant, but treating it like any other infection such as yellow fever or H7N9 that’s prevalent in China,” said a health official responsible for international health.

“We follow international guidelines, and there is no specific directive about stepping up the health alert yet. We are keeping an eye on WHO directives, but no decision has been taken regarding the Haj pilgrims so far. A monitoring committee meeting will be held soon and a decision on the pilgrimage taken,” he added. Experts are struggling to understand MERS, which does not appear to spread easily but has raised major concerns because of the high fatality rate.

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