TIME Infectious Disease

MERS Not Yet a Public Emergency, WHO Says

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus keeps on spreading, but the World Health Organization says there's no cause for serious concern

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, which has spread to over 500 people worldwide including two in the U.S., has not yet become a public health emergency.

An emergency WHO committee urged the organization’s member states to take measures to combat the disease’s spread, including implementing virus-fighting measures in health-care facilities around the world and enhancing public awareness about the disease.

The WHO said that while its concern about the situation has significantly increased due to a sharp rise rise in recent cases, there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the MERS virus.

Two cases of the virus have been reported in the U.S. in people who lived in Saudi Arabia and work in health care settings, and more than 145 people have died worldwide (though neither of the U.S. cases have been fatal). The disease first appeared in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and is thought to have been transmitted by camels. More than 500 cases of the disease have been confirmed there. The first case of the disease was reported in the Netherlands Tuesday.

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