WHO to assess UAE MERS case, reconvene panel

Health officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have invited experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) to help investigate the country's first Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case, as WHO advisors prepare to meet again to assess whether the outbreak warrants an emergency declaration.

A senior health official from the UAE revealed the country's invitation to the WHO yesterday in an interview with Gulf News, an English-language newspaper based in Dubai. The official said WHO officials were invited as part of a procedure that countries follow in the event of the spread of infectious diseases.

The 82-year-old UAE man is in stable condition and is being treated at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi, a health official from the city told Gulf News. His case was first announced by the UAE media on Jul 11, and the WHO confirmed the report in a Jul 13 statement.

The WHO said the man has underlying health conditions and is currently in critical condition. The agency said the man's illness raises the number of lab-confirmed MERS-CoV cases to 82, of which 45 were fatal.

The man's illness represents the UAE's first local MERS case. The country, though, has links to two other MERS patients: an Emirati man who died in Germany in late March after he was diagnosed and treated there, and a 65-year-old man from France who got sick and died from MERS-CoV in May after traveling to the UAE..

In other developments, the WHO's 15-member MERS-CoV emergency advisory committee meets in a teleconference again on Jul 17 at noon Geneva time.

The group's first meeting, held Jul 9, was an inaugural session that focused on background briefings. At that time the panel decided it needed more time to further discuss and consider the situation.

One of the committee's main tasks is to advise the WHO about whether or not the MERS situation constitutes a public health emergency as defined by International Health Regulations. The group will also advise the WHO on whether more temporary recommendations are needed to address the outbreak.

See also:

Jul 14 Gulf News story

Jul 13 WHO statement


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