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Annual ‘Hajj’ Pilgrimage May Cause Spread of MERS Virus

The MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia has been a serious concern, and the recent surge in the number of cases affected by this respiratory condition has caused the fear to intensify.

MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) virus is known to cause coughing and fever, and sometimes fatal pneumonia, and is thought to have affected around 800 patients already.

In its 6th meeting of the MERS emergency committee, the WHO has released a statement saying “there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission in communities.”

MERS Outbreak Could Spread With Annual Pilgrimage: Officials Photo Credits: Flickr

MERS Outbreak Could Spread With Annual Pilgrimage: Officials
Photo Credits: Flickr

The situation is more likely to get out of control in the coming times considering the increase in travel to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimages and the annual ‘Hajj.’ The major worry is the fact that the virus may spread from person to person, most of them arriving from different parts of the world, which could spark a pandemic.

“There have been significant efforts made to strengthen infection prevention and control measures,” WHO added. As a result, “the committee unanimously concluded that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not yet been met.”

Earlier this month, around 113 unreported cases of MERS infections were discovered in the area, along with 90 other deaths.

The Middle East respiratory syndrome virus was first found to emerge in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It belongs to the same family as SARS virus which caused an epidemic in 2003 and infected around 8000 of them, claiming the lives of atleast 700.

“The Saudi government has made an extensive effort really to catch up on all the numbers and to provide them as quickly as possible,” David Heyman, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, claimed. “I see a big amount of improvement taking place.”

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Enozia Vakil is an online entrepreneur, writer, editor and an avid reader. She has been associated with some of the best names in both online and print media, and holds a degree in Alternative Medicine.