The WHO’s Emergency Committee for MERS-CoV has raised concerns about the sharp surge in the number of ‘Middle East Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus’(MERS-CoV) cases since March 2014. The sharp increase has been seen particularly in Saudi Arabia and in the United Arabian Emirates. The Emergency Committee has advised a number of measures to be urgently taken, including better national policies for infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities.
Since the virus was first detected in humans 2 years back, a total of 152 people have now died and 495 have been confirmed to have contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia. Recently, cases have also been reported from Egypt, Greece, Malaysia, Philippines, and the U.S. in which infected individuals had travelled there from the Middle East.
Although it is known that the virus is widespread in camels in the Middle East and north-east Africa, it is yet to be ascertained how transmission from animals to humans takes place. As MERS-CoV causes mostly respiratory disease in humans, the common thinking is that such transmission takes place via a respiratory route.
It is also speculated that milking a camel exposes the milker and those around them, as well as the drinker of fresh frothy milk, to an aerosol which may contain MERS-CoV. The WHO has called for studies to better understand the epidemiology of the disease and risk factors related to the spread of the virus.