Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 22nd 2013 Contents A42
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, May 22, 2013
• From Page A41
"I m not sure that there s an easy way to get at
this information unless it s more forthcoming from
within Saudi Arabia or any of the partners that are
working with Saudi Arabia inside the country."
To date, the WHO has been notified of 41 con-
firmed infections with the virus, which has been
recently named MERS, for Middle Eastern respiratory
syndrome coronavirus. Of those cases, 20 have
The bulk of the infections have occurred in Saudi
Arabia, which is investigating a large and ongoing
outbreak in the eastern part of the country, near
the Persian Gulf. The most recent case---an 81-
year-old woman whose illness was announced Sat-
urday--- is part of that outbreak.
In its statement, the WHO said two of the cases
in that outbreak have no links to either other coro-
navirus patients or a hospital where some trans-
mission is known to have occurred. These uncon-
nected cases suggest two possibilities. They could
have contracted the virus from its as-yet unidentified
reservoir, which is thought to be one or more animal
species. Or these cases could be a signal that unde-
tected human transmission is happening there.
"The continued appearance of cases that are not
part of larger clusters, and who do not have a history
of animal contact, increases concerns about possible
community transmission. This possibility is being
investigated by authorities in Saudi Arabia," the
WHO statement said.
Other countries that have reported cases are Jor-
dan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Germany,
Britain and France. But the infections in the European
countries all had their origins in the countries on
the Arabian Peninsula.
The statements from the WHO and the ECDC
both underscored how little the world has learned
about the new virus since its existence was first
revealed last September.
"It is unusual to have such a degree of uncertainty
at this stage in an outbreak," the European health
agency s statement noted. It called the information
that has been shared about the cases, including the
current Saudi outbreak, "insufficient."
The ECDC statement also said at this point it
cannot exclude the possibility that the virus is acting
in a SARS-like manner, especially given that trans-
mission in hospitals have now occurred in Jordan,
Britain, France and Saudi Arabia. The MERS virus
is from the same family as the SARS coronavirus.
Hospitals played a key amplifying role during the
2003 SARS outbreak, with undetected cases infecting
other patients, visitors and health-care workers. In
fact, health-care workers made up about 21 per
cent of the roughly 8,400 probable SARS cases.
The criticisms and concerns embedded in the
two statements might appear mild but in the world
of public health diplomacy, they are unusually frank.
One expert called the WHO statement a shot
across the bow for the countries that have been
the sources of MERS infections.
"When you see those words you realise that this
is not being handled," said Michael Osterholm,
director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases
Research and Policy at the University of Minneso-
"The WHO statement and the ECDC both---
they re really important statements."
But even at that, Osterholm fears the time for
carefully worded warnings may be running out.
"You ve got to kind of call the code," he said.
"Either there is going to be an intensive effort made
to understand what s going on in the Middle East
and appropriate control measures brought to bear
or potentially we re going to be asking a lot of ques-
tions one day as to why we didn t do more."
Neither the WHO nor the ECDC is currently
calling for the type of travel advisory the WHO
levied on Toronto during the SARS outbreak. At
the height of SARS, the WHO urged world travellers
to stay away from afflicted areas, including Toron-
to.But the ECDC said European travellers to the
Arabian Peninsula and surrounding countries should
be informed of the infection risk. And companies
that operate medical evacuations should be remind-
ed of their responsibility to try to prevent trans-
mission of infections across borders.
It suggested that mapping the medical evacuation
routes from that region would help to identify
which centres in Europe might be at greatest risk
of receiving unidentified coronavirus cases. (CBC)
WHO says it is closely monitoring the virus
A nurse walks
in Lille, northern
France, May 13,
related to SARS .
In its statement, the WHO said two
of the cases in that outbreak have
no links to either other coronavirus
patients or a hospital where some
transmission is known to have
occurred. These unconnected cases
suggest two possibilities. They
could have contracted the virus
from its as-yet unidentified
reservoir, which is thought to be
one or more animal species. Or
these cases could be a signal that
undetected human transmission is
Links Archive May 21st 2013 May 23rd 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page