Update: MERS-CoV and H7N9
July 19, 2013
The summer and fall months are times of special significance for Muslims worldwide, but problems relating to the ongoing Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), may alter plans for some individuals who were looking to make a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
Millions of Muslims travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia from July through October to make Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages. The 2013 pilgrimages are underway, even though the Saudi Ministry of Health is discouraging some groups from making the trip. The Saudis are recommending that the elderly, terminally ill, pregnant women and young children postpone their plans.
The recommendations are designed to minimize health risks against MERS-CoV, a dangerous respiratory infection which has sickened more than 80 people in nine countries and generated nearly 50 fatalities. This novel virus is spread through close person to person contact, which means individuals flocking to Mecca could be at special risk.
Some three million are expected to visit Mecca during mid-October. The events planned for October 13-18 represent one of the largest mass gatherings in the world.
No one knows whether MERS-CoV will develop into a worldwide emergency, but the Saudis recognize that an ounce of prevention may be worth several pounds of cure.
H7N9 Influenza Update: The authors of a new study published in the Journal of the American Society of Microbiology says that some strains of the avian H7N9 flu that developed in China this year are resistant to antivirals. Worse yet, available tests fail to identify resistance.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists from China, Australia, and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in Memphis, Tennessee. Because testing for antiviral resistance may produce misleading results, scientists fear it could be even more difficult to treat H7N9 viruses if they develop the ability to spread easily from person to person.
No new cases of H7N9 infection have been reported. However, scientists fear additional cases could surface in the fall and winter months.
Please check back with us periodically for additional updates.