WHO scientists head to Saudi Arabia to help with MERS outbreak

Scientists from the World Health Organization are travelling to Saudi Arabia to help investigate this month’s large increase in cases of MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome.

TORONTO — Scientists from the World Health Organization are travelling to Saudi Arabia to help investigate this month’s large increase in cases of MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome.

A spokesperson for the Geneva-based agency says the mission is a response to a request for assistance from the Saudi government.

The number of MERS infections has soared recently, with more cases being diagnosed this month alone than in the past two years combined.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl says some WHO personnel are already in Saudi Arabia, taking part in a previously scheduled scientific meeting on health management of mass gatherings.

The two-day meeting, which ended Tuesday, was not called in response to the surge in MERS cases but sessions on the new disease are on the agenda.

Hartl says other members of the WHO team were to travel to Saudi Arabia overnight and the mission will begin today.

Saudi Arabia is the site of the world’s largest annual pilgrimage, the Hajj. A world leader in health management of mass gatherings, it hosts the WHO collaborating centre for mass gatherings medicine, one of four WHO collaborating centres that research and advise on public health related to events like large pilgrimages, the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup.

The first known cases of MERS occurred in April 2012 and between then and the end of March of this year, 207 cases were reported by the WHO or affected Middle East countries.

But April has seen a sharp increase in cases, mostly in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The WHO’s official count lags far behind those announced by affected countries, which now totals more than 425 cases and over 100 deaths.

At least some of the increase comes from hospital-related outbreaks in Jidda, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, UAE.

But a flurry of cases has also been reported from the Saudi capital, Riyadh. And in the past few weeks Greece, Malaysia, the Philippines and Jordan have seen cases in travellers who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

Just Posted

Alberta hiring more paramedics and buying new ambulances, none for Red Deer

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is not concerned the provincial government didn’t… Continue reading

‘My nightmare began again’: Close call as bus carrying Humboldt crash survivor rear-ended

CALGARY — A terrifying ordeal for Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki this… Continue reading

Halifax airport operations normalize after Boeing 747 runway overshoot

HALIFAX — The Halifax Stanfield International Airport has resumed normal operations a… Continue reading

Bentley family left without a home grateful for community support

Central Albertans are coming together to support a Bentley family left homeless… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP ready for new mandatory alcohol screening law

Red Deer RCMP are ready to enforce a new law intended to… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer and District Kennel Club Dog Show at Westerner Park

The Red Deer and District Kennel Club is holding a dog show… Continue reading

Brothers, 20, face second-degree murder charge in death of teen: police

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police west of Toronto say two brothers have been… Continue reading

A young mayor, his friend, and a fatal attraction to opioids

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

GM fights to retain key tax credit amid plant closing plans

WASHINGTON — General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit… Continue reading

TTC union asks provincial government to step in on transition to Presto

TORONTO — The union representing transit workers in Canada’s most populous city… Continue reading

Small pot growers find roadblocks on path to microcultivation licences

Yan Boissonneault’s daughter was turning blue. Without warning, his baby had stopped… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — There was no winning ticket for the $60 million jackpot… Continue reading

In Hollywood of Mississippi, voter fraud like a movie script

CANTON, Miss. — In a town that calls itself the Hollywood of… Continue reading

Trump picks Army chief of staff as next top military adviser

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Saturday that he’s picked a battle-hardened… Continue reading

Most Read