MERS-CoV not yet a public health emergency, advises emergency committee

The second meeting of the emergency committee – convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) to assess the situation of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – took place by teleconference on Wednesday, 17 July 2013.

The participants included not only the members of the committee but also an expert advisor to it. The committee devoted a session to reviewing information on a range of aspects of MERS-CoV, which was prepared or coordinated by the Secretariat and IHR States Parties in response to questions asked by members during their first meeting. Representatives of several affected IHR States Parties (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Kingdom) participated in this session.

The committee members unanimously decided that, with the information now available and using a risk-assessment approach, the situation does not at present meet the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern. Nevertheless, the committee offered technical advice for consideration by WHO and Member States on a broad range of issues, including:

  • improvements in surveillance, laboratory capacity, contact tracing and serological investigation;
  • infection prevention and control, and clinical management;
  • travel-related guidance;
  • risk communications;
  • epidemiological, clinical and animal research; and
  • improved data collection and the need to ensure full and timely reporting of all confirmed and probable MERS-CoV cases to WHO in accordance with IHR.

The WHO Secretariat will provide regular updates to the members and will reconvene the committee in September, unless serious new developments necessitate an earlier meeting.

Based on these views and the currently available information, the Director-General accepted the Committee’s assessment. She expressed her gratitude to the committee for its wide range of advice on health actions for countries to implement, and advice on follow-up work by WHO.