MERS virus not an international public health emergency: WHO

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a virus that has so far killed 45 people, does not constitute an international public health emergency "at this time."

However, it described the pathogen as "serious and of great concern," and suggested that WHO members reconvene on the matter in September. 

The organization will not restrict travel due to MERS concerns, according to Science Online

The cause of the new coronavirus, which The New York Times said is connected to SARS, has not been identified. 

"In essence, again, they are not saying this is unimportant," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director general for health security and the environment, reiterated to The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "They are not saying, 'Let's just now move on to other things.'"

MERS has proven fatal in over half of the 84 reported cases, most of which came out of Saudi gulf region, said the Times, adding that Saudi officials said Wednesday they found only two cases of the virus in 1,460 blood samples. 

The Canadian Press said the two new cases reported by Saudi Arabia both likely involved person-to-person contact.