Title: Infectious diseases epidemic threats and mass gatherings: refocusing global attention on the continuing spread of the Middle East Respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
Authors: Alimuddin Zumla, Abdulaziz N. Alagaili, Matthew Cotten & Esam I. Azhar
Media and World Health Organization (WHO) attention on Zika virus transmission at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and the 2015 Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa diverted the attention of global public health authorities from other lethal infectious diseases with epidemic potential. Mass gatherings such as the annual Hajj pilgrimage hosted by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia attract huge crowds from all continents, creating high-risk conditions for the rapid global spread of infectious diseases. The highly lethal Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) remains in the WHO list of top emerging diseases likely to cause major epidemics. The 2015 MERS-CoV outbreak in South Korea, in which 184 MERS cases including 33 deaths occurred in 2 months, that was imported from the Middle East by a South Korean businessman was a wake-up call for the global community to refocus attention on MERS-CoV and other emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases with epidemic potential. The international donor community and Middle Eastern countries should make available resources for, and make a serious commitment to, taking forward a “One Health” global network for proactive surveillance, rapid detection, and prevention of MERS-CoV and other epidemic infectious diseases threats.
This timespace follows the World Health Organization's situation reports regarding the COVID-19 outbreak that started in Hubei, China, in January 2020. Cover photograph taken in Japan by Jérémy Stenuit.