The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is in a state of readiness concerning the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). According to THL researcher Pamela Österlund, the health authority has prepared tests for detecting the virus, which causes serious respiratory system infections.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday it was preparing for an outbreak of the coronavirus. The WHO is convening an emergency committee to track the virus’ spread, and to decide on possible counter measures.
So far no cases have been found in Finland. At the moment an epidemic here looks unlikely.
“The coronavirus is closely related to SARS, which caused a major epidemic in 2003. The virus can mutate into a form more easily transmitted from human to human. This is why authorities are on alert with the coronavirus,” Österlund says.
Potentially deadly virus
According to Österlund, this virus strain can cause a serious lung infection that can lead to death. Some 40 people have so far died of such infections.
New infections have also been reported in Europe over the summer, with cases at least in Italy, France, Britain and Germany. Spread by airborne transmission, the virus has been transmitted between humans in Europe.
The WHO reported first cases of the respiratory syndrome coronavirus in Saudi Arabia last spring.
The origin of the virus is as of yet unknown. Most probably it was first transmitted from an animal to a human, says THL research professor Mika Salminen.
At present there is no global coronavirus pandemic, according to the WHO.