09/25/2013 06:30 EDT | Updated 11/25/2013 05:12 EST

MERS not emergency yet, but need to keep on top of cases, says WHO committee

GENEVA - A World Health Organization committee keeping track of MERS cases doesn't see the infectious disease as an emergency at this point, but recommends continued surveillance of pilgrims leaving Saudi Arabia who have taken part in the Hajj.

The Hajj, the spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that draws millions of Muslims, takes place this year between Oct. 13 and 18.

MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, is a respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia about a year ago. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV, a cousin of SARS.

About 130 people have been diagnosed with the disease, which typically causes a severely acute respiratory illness; 58 have died.

In a statement Wednesday, the WHO committee also said more capacity is needed for testing people for MERS infection, and work needs to continue to identify the source of the virus.

The committee reiterated the need for countries affected by MERS, among them Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to share information and co-ordinate with the WHO.

WHO said the committee, which includes Dr. Theresa Tam, head of emergency preparedness at the Public Health Agency of Canada, plans to meet again in late November, but will provide regular updates to countries in the interim.