SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

ECDC updates risk assessment for MERS-CoV to low

As a result of a decline in the number of cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the risk of human infection and transmission of the virus is low, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Since it was first reported in 2012, 855 cases of the virus have been reported to public health authorities around the world as of Aug. 20. Most cases-98 percent-occurred in the Middle East, while other have been linked to contact or travel in the Middle East.

According to the ECDC, evidence suggests that MERS-CoV is transmitted to humans through contact with camels.

"The current pattern of disease appears to be the combination of repeated introductions of the virus from camels to people, resulting in limited, un-sustained, human-to-human transmission," the ECDC said. "The epidemic peak observed in the spring might be explained by the annual cyclicality of camel breeding in Saudi Arabia. However, there is limited evidence to prove or discard this hypothesis."

Most cases have been linked to healthcare settings, and the World Health Organization has said inadequate infection control procedures have contributed to the outbreaks.

The annual Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj will take place at the beginning of October, and cases are expected considering the large increase in the number of cases reported this year.

"MERS CoV outbreak has had a serious public health impact in the Arabian Peninsula and has the potential to spread and have a wider geographical impact," the ECDC said. "The assessment of risk for the EU is limited by gaps in knowledge of the animal-human interface, as the direct source of the infection remains unidentified. Serological and case-control studies are needed to understand risk factors and ways to protect from the disease."