The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging doctors around the world to keep their eyes peeled for patients showing the symptoms of the MERS-CoV flu virus. The virus, which has infected 65 people in the Kingdom so far, is highly virulent and directly transmissible among people, but does not appear to be readily transmitted.

WHO is not suggesting travel bans to Saudi Arabia — a good thing, with Haj just around the corner and Ramadan about to start.

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

AFP – The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the deadly MERS virus, but said the move did not mean it was hiking its global alert level.

WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the meeting on the virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia, would take place Tuesday in the form of a telephone conference of officials from affected countries and experts around the world.

“We really want the international community to be in a position to be ready for any possibility,” Fukuda told reporters, insisting it was a “proactive move” rather than a sign of rising alarm.

Saudi Gazette reports that the transmission rate of the disease is on the lower end of the scale, below that needed to meet the definitions of either epidemic or pandemic.

ARIS – The new MERS coronavirus that has claimed dozens of lives in the Middle East does not yet have the ability to trigger a pandemic, but vigilance is needed in case it mutates, French scientists said on Friday.

In a study in The Lancet medical journal, researchers from France’s Institut Pasteur in Paris analysed data on Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) clusters and found its likelihood of developing into a SARS-like worldwide epidemic was low.

The study came as the World Health Organization (WHO) flu expert Keiji Fukuda announced on Friday that WHO was forming an emergency committee of international experts to prepare for a possible worsening of MERS.

I’ve discovered the website of the Saudi Ministry of Health, which includes updates on MERS-CoV. The English site has not been updated with the most recent statistics (it’s a few days behind). This may be due to the shift in the official Saudi weekend, which has interrupted some scheduling.

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