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    The World Health Organization (WHO) has now made it clear that a new Middle Eastern virus is a threat to the entire world. In her closing speech at the organization’s annual international meeting in Switzerland yesterday, WHO Director General Margaret Chan said: “looking at the overall global situation, my greatest concern right now is the novel coronavirus.” The term coronavirus comes from the molecular shape of this type of virus, which also includes the older SARS virus. The virus is being called MERS which stands for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. It was first detected in Saudi Arabia in November of 2012 and has since killed 22 people and infected over 40 in multiple countries.
    Chan went on to explain: “The novel coronavirus is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself. The novel coronavirus is a threat to the entire world.” The WHO said that it remains unclear as to how big of a threat the virus is, but emphasized that doctors around the globe should be on the lookout among travelers to the Middle East for symptoms of MERS. The symptoms are mild at first including shortness of breath, fever and a cough, but can quickly progress to severe pneumonia and eventually, organ failure.
    Unfortunately, there has already been some international controversy in terms of coordinating efforts to fight the MERS virus. This is due to a contentious patent on a specific part of the virus by the team of Dutch scientists who initially isolated and identified its genetic sequence. Many argue that the patent will block research in the name of public health, but the Dutch team contends a patent will spur investment from pharmaceutical companies into drugs and vaccines. There is no vaccine for MERS yet, nor antiviral drugs designed to target it, however doctors are testing the effectiveness of available drugs.
    As an offshoot of the United Nations without much regulatory power, WHO has a limited capability to intervene in this matter or any international health disputes. However, in an effort to control the virus, the agency is organizing an international team of scientists that will travel to Saudi Arabia within the next few weeks to investigate the source of the outbreak. WHO is also considering hosting a separate international conference in Cairo to specifically address MERS.
    Source: The Verge

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