WHO Convenes Emergency Committee to Address MERS-CoV. MERS-CoV has killed 42 of the 79 confirmed cases, has spread to 9 countries, and has some capability of being transmitted person to person. Yet a recent study from Institut Pasteur indicates that on average a person infected with MERS-CoV will only infect about one other person. This number, called the basic reproduction number, is different for every pathogen, and also greatly depends on the population in which it is introduced. A number around one is not likely to develop into a large epidemic, like SARS, a similar Coronavirus, which had a reproduction number of about three. However, the situation is still new, and, as is the case for any emerging infectious disease, constantly changing.
The WHO has convened an emergency committee to address growing concerns and to determine the global response to the current challenge of MERS-CoV. The second half of the meeting will be held tomorrow, followed by the announcement of whether or not they have declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. If this is declared governments will be put on high alert, and efforts in early detection, diagnosis, and containment will be strengthened. This decision comes at an important time, as this week many people will be taking pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the country currently most affected by MERS-CoV. An increase in population, people in close quarters, and travelers returning to their homes around the world are all cause for concern. Read more here, here, and here