Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Global Impact: Update--SARS-Like MERS Virus Has Infected 88, Killed 45

According to Reuters, little is known about a SARS-like virus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) corona-virus that has infected people in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, but there is strong support around the globe for screening travelers to prevent the spread of the disease, according to a new online poll conducted  by Ipsos of more than 19,000 respondents in 24 countries.

Unfortunately, the survey reveals that fewer than half of the respondents knew about the disease which has killed 45 people and infected 88 others.

Although awareness is low, those that know about the disease most people are concerned about how prepared their nations are and would alter travel plans to avoid countries where cases have been diagnosed.

COMMENT: The good news is that there is not a panic arising from MERS. On the other hand, more than 80% of people questioned in developed countries said inbound travelers from countries with cases of MERS should be screened for the illness.

Support was highest in China, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, where the illness has been reported, and Italy, which has also been affected, as well as in Australia, Canada and Argentina.

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) reported six new cases of MERS in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, including five health workers and one person who had been in contact with an infected person.

The illness, which can cause fever, coughing and pneumonia, has also surfaced in Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, Britain, France, and Germany.

Travel was also a big concern with the majority of people questioned in the poll saying they would cancel or delay travel to a country affected by the illness.

WHO has said the illness has not reached the level of a pandemic and could stop reproducing itself in victims, yet the virus is a major concern given the fact that the mortality rate is nearly 50%. WHO is developing public information on MERS for the traveling public.

Ipsos conducted the poll from June 4 to 18, questioning about 500 or 1,000 people in each country. A poll of 1,000 is accurate of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points and one of 500 to plus or minus 5.0.

For current information on MERS, please see: