WHO: Basic hygiene can help prevent MERS spread

July 10, 2014

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.

Explore further: Filipino Muslims urged to delay hajj due to MERS

Related Stories

Filipino Muslims urged to delay hajj due to MERS

July 3, 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

July 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.

Pilgrims pour into Saudi undeterred by MERS fears (Update)

June 6, 2014
Muslim pilgrims from around the world are pouring into the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, undeterred by the spread of the MERS virus which has killed 284 people in the kingdom.

Morocco advises against hajj due to MERS threat

June 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 world converge ...

New Saudi cases lift MERS infections to 136, WHO reports

October 4, 2013
The global number of infections with the deadly MERS virus has risen to 136, after hard-hit Saudi Arabia confirmed six new cases, the World Health Organization said Friday.

Recommended for you

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.