Magazine article The Nation's Health

New Respiratory Illness Takes Center Stage at Close of World Health Assembly

Magazine article The Nation's Health

New Respiratory Illness Takes Center Stage at Close of World Health Assembly

Article excerpt

AT THE close of the 66th World Health Assembly in May, World Health Organization Director-general Margaret Chan warned attendees of an emerging health threat in need of urgent global action.

"Looking at the overall global situation, my greatest concern right now is the novel coronavirus," said Chan, MD, MPH. "We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat. Any new disease that is emerging faster than our understanding is never under control."

Chan was referring to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, also known as MERS-CoV, which was first reported in September 2012 after causing a fatal acute lower respiratory illness in a man in Saudi Arabia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the novel coronavirus is different from other known coronaviruses, including the one responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and there is no specific treatment for infection. Of the 55 cases reported to WHO as of early June, 31 were fatal. As of late June, no cases had been reported in the U.S., and all cases had direct or indirect links to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

In addition to the warning, Chan also thanked attendees for their work during the Geneva-based gathering. The World Health Assembly's nearly 2,000 delegates, who included APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, adopted 24 resolutions and five decisions during the May meeting. Among the resolutions, delegates renewed their support of the Global Vaccine Action Plan, urged WHO member states to accelerate efforts to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, recognized the importance of educating health workers as part of universal health coverage, and endorsed an action plan to further improve eye health and reduce preventable visual impairment. …

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