WHOs on first alert; enlisting the aid of healthcare practitioners worldwide to monitor the epidemiology of three demons of respiratory disease: H5N1 (Bird Flu), H7N9 (a new bird flu strain with frightful potential) and a Novel Corona virus with the new moniker: Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS – CoV). A Reuter’s article from June 10 quotes Andrew Harper, WHO special adviser for health security and environment; “We are trying to find out as much as we can and we are concerned about these (three) viruses” while touting new surveillance guidelines for pandemic risk. MERS – CoV is the particular target of WHO scrutiny; “… all countries in the world need to ensure that their healthcare workers are aware of the virus and the disease it can cause and that, when unexplained cases of pneumonia are identified, MERS-CoV should be considered,” officials said.
Currently MERS has a roughly 60 percent mortality rate. H7N9 could be a sleeping giant with the ability to cause mild infection in the carrier while it spreads itself far and wide through the unwary vector. Vigilance is certainly warranted as it seems to be only a matter of which and when. As WHO expert Dr. Nabarro, senior UN system co-coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza once observed, “Frankly, there will be a pandemic, sooner or later.”