World Health Organisation calls emergency meeting to respond to SARS-like outbreak
Health experts have started an emergency international meeting to devise ways of combating a mysterious virus that has been described as the single biggest worldwide public health threat after claiming 38 lives, mostly in Saudi Arabia.
By Alex Spillius
20 Jun 2013
Amid fears of a new pandemic more deadly than Sars, 80 officials and doctors, including two from Britain, gathered in Cairo yesterday to examine ways of tackling Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, dubbed MERS.
The coronavirus is casting a shadow over the annual Muslim pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, where four new deaths were announced on Monday.
The three-day meeting called by the World Health Organisation will look at developing guidelines for Ramadan. In October, more than two million people are expected to attend the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
“Everyone is very aware of the fact that Ramadan begins next month and that there will be a large, large movement of people in a small crowded spaces,” said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO. “So the more we know about this virus before that starts the better.”
There are also concerns that tourists could bring the virus back to their home countries. It appears to have an incubation period of up to 12 days and a fatality rate of 60 per cent.