Al Arabiya TV reports that the emergence of the MERS-CoV virus in Saudi Arabia is being seen as an issue of national security, not only in the Kingdom, but across the GCC. The virus, which has slowly been killing more people in Saudi Arabia, at a pace of about one per week, is of particular concern for officials dealing with Haj, when millions of pilgrims will enter the country from abroad. The potential for an epidemic is not trivial.

The disease seems to preferentially attack the elderly and the elderly very much make up a major portion of pilgrims.

MERS: GCC infectious disease security
Theodore Karasik

In the past few weeks, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is becoming an increasing threat to GCC National Health Security. MERS, apparently originating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is spreading rapidly to several continents around the globe.

Saudi Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish has openly spoken about this potential crisis of MERS. Memish said that previous cases had been fought by placing the patient in ICU (intensive care unit) and in the haemo-dialysis unit. It is also important to separate patients and limit physical contact between subjects. At the same time, KSA is sending animal samples to the US for testing in a bid to test the virus and potentially create vaccines. Saudi Arabia, because of the King’s role as Custodian of the Holy Cities, is quite advanced in taking care of, and mitigating, any infection disease.

June:10:2013 - 08:20 | Comments & Trackbacks (5) | Permalink
5 Responses to “MERS as a Security Issue”
  1. 1
    Lola Said:
    June:10:2013 - 08:58

    Scientific American By Helen Branswell | Scientific American – Fri, Jun 7, 2013

    Has there been a superspreader in Saudi Arabia? If so, Saudi authorities have not revealed it. But it is evident that infections are being detected at a more rapid pace. At WHO’s annual meeting—the World Health Assembly—in late May, the Saudi delegation was given what amounts to a diplomatic dressing down, with Director General Margaret Chan lauding China for its handling of the H7N9 outbreak and demanding that countries with MERS cases act as good global citizens and share information in a timely, complete manner. The next day Saudi Arabia announced five more cases in a three-line statement, which revealed only that victims ranged in age from 73 and 85; all had chronic diseases and lived in the Eastern Province.

    Now, either the Middle Eastern countries, particularly KSA, have not, or they’re just withholding information, for whatever reason. And in a situation where this represents a potential global pandemic, that is inexcusable.”

    In fact, except for the sequence of the first spotted case—the man from Jeddah—no Saudi sequences have been placed in the public domain. The kingdom’s deputy minister of health, Ziad Memish, has promised that sequences will be shared.

    This week an international team of experts convened by WHO has gathered in Saudi Arabia to make headway in prying information out of the country. With the clock counting down to Ramadan, they have little time in which to answer key questions about the disease—answers needed to help safeguard the umrah pilgrims, and the rest of the world.

  2. 2
    Chris Said:
    June:10:2013 - 09:03 

    WHO praised China!
    The same China that lied about SARS and HIV cases? Perhaps they meant Taiwan.

    Hopefully the infection won’t spread worldwide, but the kingdom is being its normal catious self. It may also have been peeved that a private company stole samples.

  3. 3
    John Burgess Said:
    June:10:2013 - 09:15 

    I confess I’m a little underwhelmed by that WHO release. Insofar as I can tell, the Saudis have been very forthcoming and cooperative in sharing information.

    Here’s the latest from WHO:

  4. 4
    Lola Said:
    June:10:2013 - 13:51

    MERS coronavirus has potential to spread globally, WHO says

    * U.N. health agency issues new guidance on pandemic risks

    By Stephanie Nebehay

    GENEVA, June 10 (Reuters) – The World Health Organisation on Monday urged health workers around the world to be on the alert for symptoms of the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), which has the potential to circle the globe and cause a pandemic.

  5. 5
    Lola Said:
    June:14:2013 - 09:22

    Saudi Arabia has confirmed that another person has died from the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (Mers-CoV). The Ministry of Health said three additional cases of the disease have been identified, with one patient dying from it.

    In total, 58 cases of Mers-CoV have been confirmed around the world. The death toll has risen to 33. Saudi Arabia has been worst affected, with 46 of the total.

    A 21-year-old man from Hafar Al-Batin governorate died. Saudi authorities said that another person who had previously been diagnosed with Mers-CoV had died, but did not indicate their age or sex.

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