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Federal officials issue warning about MERS, may be spread by Muslim pilgrimage

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

More than two million Muslims visit Mecca each year for the annual pilgrimage and many come from the United States. As the MERS virus stalks Saudis, the chances for its global spread increases with the influx of pilgrims.

The MERS virus appears to be particularly deadly, killing about half of all known victims. It is possible that most victims do not die of the virus, lowering its mortality risk, however is remains much more lethal that other coronaviruses which at most usually produce symptoms of the common cold in patients.

Regardless, if the disease begins to spread globally, it will be a threat to national security.

The notice was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday and authorities are neither wasting  time, nor taking chances. The notice paves the way for the rapid development of drugs to combat the disease.

Although the disease has affected only about 55 people, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are taking it very seriously because of its lethality. They have warned the disease appears easily able to transmit from person-to-person.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who published the notice Wednesday said, "there is a significant potential for a public health emergency that has a significant potential to affect national security or the health and security of United States citizens living abroad."

Now, the Food and Drug Administration may bypass traditional processes for the approval of drugs and products that will combat the disease, even to the point of using an unapproved or unlicensed product.

These measures suggest that MERS could be far more deadly and dangerous than we think. Other lethal diseases do not receive such warnings and authorizations. However, MERS can spread easily and although the number of reported cases is small, officials believe the true number may be much higher.

There are no official restrictions, recommendations, or warnings for the public at this time, however federal officials are monitoring the situation very closely.

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