MERS coronavirus a bigger threat to Australia than Ebola, experts say

Wednesday, June 17, 2015
By Paul Martin

Dan Harrison, Julia Medew
June 17, 2015

An infectious diseases expert has warned Australia is at greater risk from the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus than it was from Ebola, but Australian authorities insist the nation is prepared for any cases of the deadly disease.

The virus has killed 19 people in South Korea since last month in the largest known outbreak outside the Arabian Peninsula. To date, 161 cases have been confirmed in South Korea, and one case has been confirmed in China.

While no cases have been detected in Australia, Sanjaya Senanayake, an associate professor of medicine at the Australian National University, said it was likely Australia would get a case at some stage.

Professor Senanayake, an infectious disease specialist, said MERS-CoV posed a similar threat to Ebola.

“We went to a lot of trouble planning for Ebola, which was very sensible, but potentially the risk of getting MERS in Australia is even higher,” he said.

Michael Richards, the director of infectious diseases at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, said the hospital had discussed how a person presenting at its emergency department with a possible case of MERS-CoV could be treated in a manner which minimised the risk to staff and other patients.

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