Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Margaret Chan: On Tackling The MERS Problem


Coronavirus – Credit CDC PHIL



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More than three years after MERS first appeared in Saudi Arabia the virus continues to crop up in the community, and quite often, spreads quickly through hospitals.   As mentioned many times before, our understanding of how this virus circulates in the community is far from complete.

In recent months we’ve seen the World Health Organization take a sterner tone when it comes to the lack of progress in containing this virus, releasing an assessment last May (see WHO EMRO: Scientific Meeting Reviews MERS Progress & Knowledge Gaps) calling for more coordinated research.


The 10th Meeting Of the IHR Emergency Committee On MERS, which convened in early September, released an unusually blunt assessment, stating:


The Committee further noted that its advice has not been completely followed. Asymptomatic cases that have tested positive for the virus are not always being reported as required.

Timely sharing of detailed information of public health importance, including from research studies conducted in the affected countries, and virological surveillance, remains limited and has fallen short of expectations. 

Inadequate progress has been made, for example, in understanding how the virus is transmitted from animals to people, and between people, in a variety of settings. The Committee was disappointed at the lack of information from the animal sector.


Today, Reuters is reporting that Margaret Chan – Director General of the World Health Organization – has made some choice remarks regarding the progress (or lack, thereof) against the MERS virus. 


While the headline and lede focus on readying a vaccine, the rest of the story centers on the `gaps in the science’, and the failures of infection control in hospitals.


WHO chief says US, Saudi discussing MERS vaccine

Source: Reuters - Tue, 20 Oct 2015 10:47 GMT

Author: Reuters


GENEVA, Oct 20 (Reuters) - The United States and Saudi Arabia are discussing the possibility of readying a vaccine for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) before the next outbreak of the disease, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Margaret Chan said there were many gaps in the science of MERS and so far the world had taken only "baby steps" in tackling the virus.

She said cases in Saudi Arabia and South Korea showed that infection control in hospitals was not good enough, one of many examples where countries were failing to meet their obligations to protect public health. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Janet Lawrence)



Note:  A longer, more detailed version of this report is now available (h/t @Crof) at  HERE

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