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MERS-CoV Infections: GOARN Request for Assistance

Related to Event IDs: 2013-E000191 ; 2013-E000138 ; 2013-E000106 ; 2013-E000092 ; 2013-E000083 ; 2012-E000288 ; 2012-E000248 ; 2012-E000254 ; 2012-E000111 
Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO), Europe (EURO)
12 November 2013
Request for assistance
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL

Situation update

There is currently no evidence of sustained human-to human transmission, however, MERS-CoV may evolve to spread quickly among humans and affect wider geographical areas. While major knowledge gaps remain in understanding the emergence of this virus, clinical manifestations as well as the transmission risk, the recent scientific research is enhancing the global knowledge on the disease caused by the MERS-CoV.  New knowledge needs to be translated into adapted public health actions in order to improve global and regional public health preparedness against this emerging risk to global health.

Globally, from September 2012 to 12 November 2013, WHO has been informed of a total of 153 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, with 65 of these resulting in death.

Three main epidemiological patterns have emerged to date: sporadic cases in communities, clusters of infections in families, and clusters of infections in health care facilities. Most of the cases so far have been sporadic in nature, however human to human transmission has not been ruled out. Further investigation will be required in order to determine the source of MERS-CoV infections.

Please refer to WHO websites listed below for updates and more information on the latest news, and global status of MERS-CoV infections:

·         Disease Outbreak News: http://www.who.int/csr/don/en/

·         Coronavirus infections: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/coronavirus_infections/en/

Preparedness and Response

Since the emergence of this novel coronavirus in 2012, WHO has deployed eight MERS-CoV-related missions to support countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region. These missions have provided direct technical assistance and support to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Republic of Tunisia. Support was provided to Ministries of Health to investigate the epidemic, develop study protocols and design and implement strategies to build critical capacities for disease outbreaks response.

Since March 2013, WHO has maintained a core group of staff from the most-affected regions, and multiple departments at HQ as well as WHO Regional Offices, who have been dedicated to monitoring and assessing MERS-CoV, and coordinating response activities and support. This Taskforce represents a cross-sectional response that goes beyond normal operations, and has allowed WHO to ensure coordinated and tailored activities at the right level.  The multi-disciplinary approach engages technical and operational capacity and expertise for preparedness and response, including communications and information management, and emergency support. This approach combines focus and flexibility and allows for a scalable response that is adaptable to operational realities.

In the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office has lead a regional approach to the MERS-CoV, and supported countries to strengthen surveillance and response capacity, and to encourage  sharing of  epidemiological, virological and clinical data to better understand and address MERS-CoV infections.

A core element of WHO’s response, to date, has been to mobilize and engage partner networks to support MERS-related activities in the areas of field investigation, infection prevention and control, clinical case management, research, laboratory capacity, risk communications and epidemiology.

Request for assistance

WHO has been providing support to Member States in various areas including guidance in technical laboratory practices, surveillance practices, infection prevention and control and clinical management.  Previous WHO missions in responding to MERS-CoV cases have led to additional guidance and contributed to build capacities in areas that are required under the IHR (2005). .

In anticipation of future Requests for assistance from Member States, and in order to provide the continued support needed to respond to this new disease, and prepare for the possible scenario in which the virus may spread rapidly, WHO is requesting assistance from GOARN partners to identify technical support for possible field investigation, preparedness and response activities in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Pending specific requests from Member States, WHO is seeking the support of GOARN partners to identify potential expertise and capacity in the following areas:

·         Field Epidemiology

·         Surveillance and early detection systems

·         Laboratory capacity

·         Clinical management

·         Infection prevention and control

·         Risk communications

·         Animal / human interface [investigation]

·         Capacity building for preparedness and response

Furthermore, in order to build regional network capacity for responding to the MERS-CoV epidemic, WHO is requesting partners to identify potential support for GOARN training activities to be organized at the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office.

Partners’ offers of assistance

Partners are requested to reply with expressions of interests including the Name and CV of experts available for missions by email to goarn@who.int


The GOARN Operational Support Team (OST) at WHO/HQ is grateful to partners who have offered technical and operational support. The situation is evolving rapidly and the OST will provide further updates and details as they become available.

We look forward to receiving your offers and thank you again for your support to the Network.


GOARN Operational Support Team

Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network 
Global Capacities, Alert and Response

World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland

E-mail: goarn@who.int


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