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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Novel Coronavirus Infection in Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia

05 Dec 2012

Over the past 2 months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has received reports of 9 cases of human infection with a novel coronavirus. Thus far, the cases reported have come from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

A total of 5 confirmed cases have been reported from Saudi Arabia. The first 2 are not linked to each other, however, 3 others are linked and occurred in one family living in the same household. One additional family member in this household also became ill, with symptoms similar to those of the confirmed cases. This person has recovered and tested negative for the virus.

Two confirmed cases have been reported in Jordan. These cases were discovered through testing of stored samples from a cluster of pneumonia cases that occurred in April 2012.

The 2 Qatari cases are not linked. Both had severe pneumonia and acute kidney failure but are now recovering.

The 2 clusters (Saudi Arabia, Jordan) raise the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission. The current understanding of this novel virus is that it can cause a severe, acute respiratory infection presenting as pneumonia. Acute kidney failure has also occurred in 5 cases.

Advice for Travellers

Coronaviruses cause the common cold but can also include more severe illness, such as the virus responsible for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). This new virus, however, is different from any that have previously been identified in humans.

The WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is not recommending any travel restrictions. Travellers returning from the Middle East with mild respiratory symptoms are most likely to have a common respiratory illness such as a cold. 

If symptoms are more severe or worsen and include breathlessness, medical advice should be sought from the GP or NHS 24/NHS Direct. Travellers should inform the GP/Doctor about the countries of the Middle East they have visited.