Dr Keiji Fukuda – Credit WHO
The 53rd Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and 66th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Americas gathered in Washington D.C. between September 29th and October 3rd. Among the many presentations was a briefing by World Health Organization Assistant Director-General for Health Security and the Environment - Dr Keiji Fukuda – who briefed delegates on both the emerging MERS Coronavirus and the newest avian flu threat; H7N9.
While both viruses have only produced limited regional outbreaks (in China and the Middle East) to date, Dr Fukuda urged member countries to be alert and to prepare their public health agencies to deal with the possible spread of either virus.
The following excerpts come from the 53rd Directing Council blog, posted 10/1/13. Follow the link to read it in its entirety.
Fukuda briefs Directing Council delegates on MERS-CoV and A(H7N9)
Keiji Fukuda, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment, briefed delegates to the 52nd Directing Council on the status of outbreaks of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the influenza virus A(H7N9), which are being closely monitored for their potential impact on international health security.
Fukuda noted that there are both similarities and difference between the two viruses. Both are from animal reservoirs, both are “unusually pathogenic,” and both are capable of human-to-human transmission. Although neither has shown sustained transmission in the community, both remain major underlying public health risks.
A(H7N9) is an avian influenza virus that so far has caused outbreaks only in China, the largest outbreak so far during March and April of 2013, when 130 cases were reported during one four-week period. The source of human infection is contact with infected poultry, said Fukuda, mostly in live markets. As with all influenza viruses, A(H7N9) appears to be more active in cold weather, both in birds and in humans.
In contrast to A(H7N9)’s appearance only in China, MERS-CoV has been reported in nine countries, most in the Middle East, but also in Tunisia and in patients with histories of travel to the Middle East returning to France, Italy and the United Kingdom. Fukuda noted that less is known about coronaviruses in general than about influenza viruses, for example, it is not known if coronaviruses are seasonal.