MERS-CoV: UN warns of ‘critical knowledge gaps’

MERS-CoV: UN warns of ‘critical knowledge gaps’
Updated 25 February 2015

MERS-CoV: UN warns of ‘critical knowledge gaps’

MERS-CoV: UN warns of ‘critical knowledge gaps’

LONDON: UN health experts said on Monday that the Kingdom has to do more to investigate and control a deadly new MERS virus that has killed hundreds of people here and remains in many ways a mystery,.
The experts said cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are surging again, but health officials and scientists in the Kingdom appear unable to explain where the infections start and how they spread.
The UN group — an international delegation of scientists and public health experts from WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization — visited Saudi Arabia last week to investigate a sharp rise in MERS cases.
“Critical gaps in knowledge remain, and several challenges ... will require further work,” it said in a joint statement. “How and why infections occur in the community is yet to be understood, and this is critical for stopping the outbreak.”
Initial scientific studies have linked MERS to camels, but disease experts say it is not at all clear how the infection passes from the animals. Many people infected in the community and in hospitals report no contact with camels, they note.
“There are so many aspects of the virus that are still unknown,” said Berhe Tekola, director of the FAO’s animal production and health division.
Keiji Fukuda, a WHO virus expert who led this mission, said that despite progress in fighting MERS in hospitals, key infection prevention and control measures are still breached. “When health workers are infected at work, this puts other health care workers at risk, but also can be a risk to all other patients,” he said.
“Understanding where the breach in these measures is occurring and taking the steps needed to fully implement infection prevention and control measures can put an end to these ... infections.”
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