MERS virus causes increasing concern

22 May 2014

With a rapid increase in case numbers in April and May 2014 and a rapid increase in the number of countries affected by the MERS coronavirus, the WHO International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on MERS-CoV, at its recent meeting on 13 May, assessed that, while the situation does not currently constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), concern about the situation has increased significantly.

As of 15 May 2014, the WHO had received reports of 572 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including 173 deaths. Up to 75 per cent of recent cases are considered to be secondary cases, the majority of which are healthcare workers who have been infected in healthcare settings. The case fatality rate has decreased to 30 per cent with these occurrences of mild secondary infections in health care workers. 

There has been a rapid increase in the number of affected countries, with imported cases newly reported from the United States, the Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, the Philippines and cases acquired from an unknown source in Lebanon and Yemen for the first time. All cases have had a history of residence in or travel to the Middle East, or contact with travellers returning from these areas. There have been no cases in Australia. Camels are suspected to be the primary source of infection for humans, but the exact routes of direct or indirect exposure remain unknown.

More information is available from the Department of Health website.

Image by Sabbhat Sabacio Striges on Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence