For a year, in this column, growing evidence has been presented about the possibility of a new deadly virus being transmitted from human to human, a virus with a mortality rate of 42.6%. Questions have been raised as to what the world health authorities have been doing to protect us, and now the chilling truth: it is transmitted from human to human
The new virus is called Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). It appeared in 2012 and its incidence has been focused principally around the Gulf States.
In January (1), I raised the alarm, presenting my first fears about how the WHO would handle what was then a new and deadly virus with an unknown transmission mechanism.
In February (2), I warned: "The scientific community is facing its worst nightmare: a pathogenic virus with the capacity to make a species jump and then become transmissible from human to human. It is called NCoV, or Novel coronavirus", in an article which posed the question as to whether all cases were being reported, and whether or not human to human transmission had occurred.
The World Health Organization, the same organism that stood back and watched as Influenza A H1N1 became a pandemic, informing us of the different phases the disease was passing through, without imposing any restrictive measures on movement of people or goods, yet again reduced its activities to saying "be vigilant" and not advising any travel restrictions.
In May (3), I asked about the "confirmed cases in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, Germany, Tunisia and the United Kingdom" and again questioned how the statistics were drawn up and whether or not there were cases outside the loop that were not being considered.
In September (4), I referred to "the latest four laboratory-confirmed cases were reported by the World Health Organization on August 30, a 55-year-old man from Medina, Saudi Arabia who is hospitalized and another man, 38, from Hafar-al-Batin, Saudi Arabia, who died nine days after contracting the disease", raising the issue that "Two of his family members are also infected (a 16-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl)".
And now, the latest bulletin from the World Health Organization, dated November 4, states that the latest patient to die of the disease, a 56-year-old woman who became ill on October 26 and died on October 30, "had no contact with animals, but had contact with a previously laboratory confirmed case".
The report continues: "Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 150 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 64 deaths". That is a death rate of 42.6%, making it one of the most deadly viruses ever to have appeared. Spanish Influenza (1918-1920), which killed between 3 and 5 per cent of the world's population, had a mortality rate of 20 per cent at worst.
Yet what does the WHO recommend? It encourages member states to continue surveillance (i.e. sit back and watch), test recent travelers who develop SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Infections) for MERS-CoV (while allowing them to make the Hajj instead of prohibiting it). The WHO, in stating "Health care facilities that provide care for patients suspected or confirmed with MERS-CoV infection should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to other patients, health care workers and visitors" is admitting that human to human transmission exists.
However, the cherry on the cake: "WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions". Yet the issue is serious enough for an Emergency Committee to have been set up.
With friends like this to protect us, who needs enemies? Could it be that the way is being paved for the Pharmaceutical lobby to swing into action once enough patients have fallen ill with this new disease? And could it be that one journalist with zero background in medical sciences is doing far more to protect the world population from a potential killer than the army of experts employed and paid by the WHO?
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