Tuesday, 3 June 2014

MERS-CoV by week...good luck Professor Memish

We are now in the 116th week since MERS-CoV caused known illness in a  human; a week that has seen the loss of Professor Ziad Memish from the frontlines of the war on MERS. 

Thankfully it was not a physically fatal loss, but rather a "standing down". Not only is Prof. Memish the father of Mass Gathering Medicine, but he has been the public and global face for the mischief caused by MERS since the beginning.
Insights from the Front Lines. UPMC Center for Health 

Security presentation by Dr Ziad Memish on MERS-CoV.
August 21, 2013

I tip my hat to a very prolific and expert writer who has in his time covered every aspect of the emergence of this virus. He has produced about 40 journal articles on MERS-CoV in just 2-years..so far. 

I and others have been critical of the speed with which information about MERS and the MERS-CoV has materialized and I stand by that. But I admit to never having walked a mile in Prof. Memish's shoes so that may be unfair.

I also realize that this one person had a lot to do. He bore the brunt of being the front man, the scientific communicator, the collaborative nexus and also the punching bag for the hits that came when things didn't go well or go fast enough; today's announcement is probably the culmination of those hits. Whether or not Prof. Memish was adequately supported in his role, I have no idea, but I personally feel The Ministry of Health needed more engagement with it's stakeholders, the people of the Kingdom, but also with the world at large. I don't know that any one person can adequately do all those things nor should he be blamed for all those failings. 

We shall see how Prof Memish's successor goes. I'd personally hope that they start a dedicated media Unit that can become a more public face for MERS and other health issues in the Kingdom. I'd instruct that Unit to have an active presence on Twitter. But not just on Twitter ; engaged with Twitter. Many people have ideas that could help inform and educate-listen and learn from them. And update the Coronavirus website with some "work in progress" banners. I think some official hints or comments about what is coming down the pipeline would be very useful and calming. And try find some mainstream media writers who will do the occasional 1 on 1 interview - sometimes the quick grabs can be a killer for trying to get the bigger picture out into the world. Plus, a lot of people like knowing more about "that person over there". Its a big media-driven world out there. Use it. Be novel and innovative with it. You've cleaned out your house now. Do something new and exciting with your abode.

So, to wish Prof Memish the best, I post a chart. I can't buy him a coffee from my chair on the other side of the world far away from all the action-but I would if I could. I'd love to sit and have a chat with him about it all. I also very much hope he has someone he can he can vent to, or with, at the end of the day. I know that without my family, I'd have gone mad many years ago! 

This is not a new chart to anyone who reads these pages. And it's not one that screams of an outbreak out of control. It's a chart that shows the continued cessation of an outbreak. In fact, one that seems to be under control, at least for now. And given that the biases in reporting are probably no different now from what they were 6-weeks or 18-months ago, I tend to trust that it is under control. 

Perhaps this is a fitting send off for a man who seems like he just wanted to do the best he knew how to, to help his people. I hope he can still do that in whatever role is next up for him. Just as I've always hoped for that for Prof Zaki as well.

Now to see what comes next for MERSville.

A chart for Professor Ziad Memish.
Click on chart to enlarge.