GENEVA (Reuters) - The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS) is not a "public health emergency of international concern", the emergency committee of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
Its 15 international experts issued a unanimous decision after hearing reports from authorities in Saudi Arabia and other countries affected by the deadly SARS-like virus that has infected 82 people and killed 45 of them since April 2012.
"Based on these views and the currently available information, the (WHO) Director-General (Margaret Chan) accepted the Committee's assessment that the current MERS-CoV situation is serious and of great concern, but does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern at this time," the WHO said in a statement issued in Geneva.
The health experts began urgent talks on MERS on July 9 amid concerns about larger numbers of milder infections possibly going undetected.
The committee, which held its second private teleconference on Wednesday, can make recommendations on travel and trade, disease surveillance, as well as the exchange of data.
Cases have also been found in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Britain, France, Italy and Germany.
Millions are expected to travel to Mecca in October for the haj pilgrimage, but Saudi authorities have cut the number of visas this year, citing safety concerns over expansion work at the main mosque site.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Roche)
First published July 17 2013, 1:17 PM