WHO Forms MERS Emergency Committee

The committee's members are international experts who will meet July 9 and July 11.

The World Health Organization is convening an Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Such committees consist of international experts who advise the WHO director-general regarding a "public health emergency of international concern," and if the director-general decides an event constitutes such an emergency, the committee provides advice on appropriate health measures countries should implement.

The committee's members will meet July 9 and July 11, WHO announced.

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus is a strain only recently identified in humans, and thus far nearly all cases have had a direct or indirect connection to the Middle East. WHO reports there have been 64 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with MERS-CoV) since April 2012, and 38 of those individuals have died. The majority (72 percent) have been males.

"There is very limited information on transmission, severity and clinical impact with only a small number of cases reported thus far," according to the agency. Affected countries include Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Tunisia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a Health Update Advisory recommending how health care providers and state health departments should evaluate patients for MERS-CoV infection. The advisory described an increase from 10 to 14 days in the defined incubation period and the criteria for travel history for suspect patients after returning from the Arabian peninsula or neighboring countries. "The documented transmission of MERS-CoV to healthcare personnel highlights the importance of infection control procedures to prevent transmission," according to CDC, which recommends "standard, contact, and airborne precautions for the management of hospitalized patients with known or suspected MERS-CoV infection." The agency also noted that "the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, including gloves, gowns, eye protection, and respiratory protection that is at least as protective as a NIOSH-certified N95 respirator, is recommended."

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