Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Pooling knowledge against killer Mers coronavirus

It is reassuring that the world's top experts are working together against the dangerous new Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

In Cairo this weekend, 80 of the world's leading experts - scientists, doctors and public-health officials - gathered for three days to build our defences against the virus that causes the dangerous disease now known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers).

That the World Health Organisation has convened such a meeting is both worrying and reassuring. Medical experts and public-health authorities are obviously taking the problem seriously, which is a good start to managing it. On the other hand, the experts admit that they know very little about the coronavirus that causes the disease - not even where it comes from, or how it is transmitted. The nearest related virus is found in bats, and it is speculated that it passes into camels via dates infected by bat droppings and then on into humans. Transmission from camel to human - and between humans - is also not fully understood.

The ailment's name is based on the fact that the majority of the 60 cases - and 38 deaths - identified worldwide starting in April 2012 have originated in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, but also Jordan, Tunisia and the UAE. The handful of cases in western Europe have involved travellers from the Middle East.

The high mortality rate is balanced by the fact that so far, at least, the pneumonia-like sickness the virus causes has not been very contagious; there is not, in the jargon, "sustained community transmission". However, the experts are concerned that the occasional Mers victims becomes what they call a "superspreader" - a person with an increased ability to infect others. Why that should be is again unknown. There is also the ever-present danger that the virus could mutate into something far more contagious.

On the bright side, in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, an absence of new Mers cases lately has eased public concerns. As The National reported yesterday, people are putting aside their sanitary masks and resuming the traditional cheek-kiss in greeting.

Just as viruses can spread, so can humankind's defences. Research methods and findings, technological resources, diagnostic tools, hospital sanitation methods, public health advances, communication strategies, and the whole gamut of best practices can and should all be shared openly and efficiently around the world. It is reassuring to know that in the case of Mers, this is happening.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Marina Square apartments Reem Island: Q1 2% rise. Studio - Dh65-68,000. 1BR - Dh75-95,000. 2BR - Dh110-145,000. 3BR - Dh170-190,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 no change. Sammy Dallal / The National

In pictures: Where Abu Dhabi rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Abu Dhabi have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 A model of the plans for Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District, which was on display at the Global Cityscape exhibition at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre last year. Ali Haider / EPA

Building the future on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island

Nick Leech meets Jassim Al Hammadi, the engineer charged with providing the services that will make the Saadiyat Cultural District tick.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.

 Ashish Nehra of Chennai Super Kings bowls to Kings XI Punjab at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Hard-hitting Chennai not deterred by opening loss in IPL

But some questions remain about the team's attack ahead of Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils in Abu Dhabi, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 From left: Alex Ritman, his favorite waiter and friend Andy Tillett at Baithal Ravi in 2009. Courtesy Alex Ritman

Lamenting Bur Dubai’s Baithal Ravi Restaurant

When I heard that a fire had ripped through the restaurant known as Ravis in the Bur Dubai district of Dubai, my outburst was met with echoed monosyllabic despair among numerous friends on social media.

 Screen shot from Vin Deisel's facebook page of he and Michelle Rodriguez in Abu Dhabi for the filming of Fast & Furious 7. April 2014

Fast & Furious in Abu Dhabi, a social media frenzy

Fast & Furious 7 wraps up an eventful and much-anticipated week of filming in the capital. Let's take a look at what went on via the key players' social media, while they were enjoying the delights of the desert.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National