MERS coronavirus not health emergency, WHO panel says
The Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome virus that has sickened 84 people since last September isn't a public health emergency, a panel of experts advising the World Health Organization says.
The UN health agency's panel of international experts looking into Middle East coronavirus met by teleconference on Wednesday to offer technical advice such as on travel issues.
"Based on these views and the currently available information, the (WHO) Director-General (Margaret Chan) accepted the committee's assessment that the current MERS-CoV situation is serious and of great concern, but does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern at this time," the WHO said in a statement from Geneva.
Affected countries include Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Tunisia. All the European and North African cases have had a direct or indirect connection to the Middle East, according to WHO.
The director-general of WHO accepted the committee's assessment.
The WHO is looking for answers to several questions. For example, it is concerned that mild and asymptomatic cases that could be going undetected, which would make the death rate lower than it currently seems.
The source of the virus is also unknown. It's hoped that if the source can be determined, then it might help contain the outbreak.
With files from The Canadian Press and Reuters