Interview With Saudi Virus Researcher … Mers
In the world’s eyes, Saudi Arabia appears to be ground zero for the new MERS coronavirus, with the country accounting for nearly 80 per cent of known cases. But the kingdom’s deputy minister of health believes this virus is infecting people around the world, and other countries aren’t catching cases because they aren’t looking.
In a wide-ranging interview, Dr. Ziad Memish also said that while he takes the new virus seriously, he doesn’t believe the outbreak deserves the type of attention it is receiving. Earlier this week, the director general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, called the new coronavirus “a threat to the entire world.”
“We’re spending a lot of money, we’re making a lot of investments trying to see what this disease is about and where it’s coming from and how we can manage it,” said Memish, who received his medical training in Canada.
“But … you know, the H7N9 killed 35 people and there were 134 odd cases in a few weeks. So I think, yes, it’s a concern, but not as big a concern as is being portrayed in the media.”
“People say we’re not transparent. People say we’re not giving information. But as we spoke to the DG” — the director general — “and WHO we said everything that we are learning,” Memish said.
He clearly chafes at the suggestion that the virus is coming from his country, or region.
In fact, in an article Memish published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, he said an earlier iteration of the WHO’s advice for how to find cases probably led to an underestimation of the scope of the problem, because it linked infections only to countries on and around the Arabian Peninsula. The most recent version of the guidance talks about the Middle East.