Five Russian government doctors attended a rally Tuesday in Moscow to protest the mysterious Middle East respiratory syndrome virus known as MERS. The doctors, who said they are now infected with the virus, told the AP they want to expose the way officials have been “silent” about the crisis.
So far, 495 people in Saudi Arabia have contracted MERS, and as many as 81 percent of the people who contracted the virus had other health conditions. Saudi Arabia insists that the virus — which in the Saudi case is also called Arabian Peninsula virus, or APV — is not spreading outside of the country. The World Health Organization has also insisted that the health crisis here is no different than the one in the Arabian Peninsula in 2014.
But here in Moscow, the doctors — representing the five biggest cities in Russia — are worried. Some say the CDC has not publicized to the general public the facts about MERS, and in the past they’ve struggled to find news publications that could even talk about the virus or its dangers. And the Moscow protests are proof that Russians’ suspicion of medical officials who might be hiding anything has been validated.
It’s no secret that Russia is suffering from a medical and psychiatric crisis. Estimates are that 45 million people — 20 percent of the population — suffer from depression, and many citizens have developed thoughts of suicide. Mental hospitals around Russia are in dire need of government attention.
But these doctors have faced difficulties. They have tried to come to the public’s attention, but have also been the targets of harsh criticism by conservative Muslims in their home cities.
Finally, on Tuesday, the doctors spoke to the media outside Russia’s supreme court.
“Since , everything has been unclear and nobody took responsibility for this crisis,” one of the doctors said. “We heard the information ourselves through the media, not from public officials. We want a government that is not afraid of the people.”
The doctors reported earlier this year that they were suffering from bloody nose and diarrhea and headaches, symptoms of MERS. To this day, the doctors don’t know where they contracted the virus.