WHO: Basic hygiene can help prevent MERS spread

A World Health Organization official on Thursday urged millions of Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to exercise basic hygiene as mass gatherings pose risks of spreading the Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The U.N. agency has recorded 827 cases of MERS and 287 deaths, mostly in Saudi Arabia. The virus is believed primarily acquired through contact with camels and spread among humans through body fluids and droplets.

Hand washing and keeping away from coughing people are simple ways to prevent the virus' spread, said Mark Jacobs, WHO Western Pacific region director for communicable diseases.

He said there's a low chance of its spread in most settings, but health workers caring for MERS patients, people exposed to camels and those in large gatherings are at some risk. "Any gathering of large numbers of people can produce, can result, in risks of any sort of infectious diseases," he added.

Jacobs said cases of MERS have been found in a number of countries but they are linked to cases in a small number of countries in the Arabian peninsula.

"What we have been seeing is outbreaks in those countries but the occasional case in a traveler," he said. Unless the virus changes, the risk of spread in the Asia-Pacific region is small, he said.

Philippine health authorities last week urged Muslim Filipinos, especially the elderly and those with chronic ailments, to postpone their annual pilgrimage to Mecca because of MERS worries. About 6,500 Filipinos are expected to join the October pilgrimage.

Mecca sees a constant stream of pilgrims throughout the year from around the world, and their numbers swell during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins in late June. The hajj pilgrimage—which Islam says is a duty of all able-bodied Muslims to perform once in their lives—brings even more gigantic crowds: Some 2 million pilgrims from all over the world, packed into the close quarters as they visit the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, and other locations in and around Mecca for a period of about five days. This year, hajj starts in early October.

Since the coronavirus was first discovered in 2012, there have been two annual hajj pilgrimages to the city, and neither saw instances of pilgrims being infected.

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Filipino Muslims urged to delay hajj due to MERS

Jul 03, 2014

Philippine health authorities urged Muslim Filipinos Thursday to postpone their annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia due to worries about an often deadly respiratory virus.

MERS unlikely to spread in Asia: WHO expert

Jul 10, 2014

Asian countries should keep their guard against the deadly Middle East respiratory virus, although it is unlikely to spread to the region, a World Health Organization expert said Thursday.

Morocco advises against hajj due to MERS threat

Jun 18, 2014

Morocco's health minister has advised the country's Muslim faithful against making pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia this year, with the deadly MERS virus having killed nearly 300 people there so far.

Saudis question Mecca preparedness as MERS spreads

May 15, 2014

Officials in Saudi Arabia are raising alarm that the kingdom is not doing enough to prevent Mecca from becoming a route for exporting an often deadly respiratory virus as millions of Muslims from around the ...

Recommended for you

Mutating Ebola viruses not as scary as evolving ones

23 minutes ago

My social media accounts today are cluttered with stories about "mutating" Ebola viruses. The usually excellent ScienceAlert, for example, rather breathlessly informs us "The Ebola virus is mutating faster in humans than in animal hosts ...

War between bacteria and phages benefits humans

1 hour ago

In the battle between our immune systems and cholera bacteria, humans may have an unknown ally in bacteria-killing viruses known as phages. In a new study, researchers from Tufts University, Massachusetts ...

Ebola kills 31 people in DR Congo: WHO

3 hours ago

An outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 31 people and the epidemic remains contained in a remote northwestern region, UN the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

Dengue fever strikes models in Japan

5 hours ago

A worsening outbreak of dengue fever in Japan has claimed its first celebrities—two young models sent on assignment to the Tokyo park believed to be its source.

Japanese researchers develop 30-minute Ebola test

5 hours ago

Japanese researchers said Tuesday they had developed a new method to detect the presence of the Ebola virus in 30 minutes, with technology that could allow doctors to quickly diagnose infection.

Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

17 hours ago

Senegalese authorities on Monday were monitoring everyone who was in contact with a student infected with Ebola who crossed into the country, and who has lost three family members to the disease.

User comments