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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia (Update)

04 Mar 2014

WHO has been informed of two new additional cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Health for Saudi Arabia has also reported one other new case which has still to be notified by WHO.

The Ministry of Health case is a 56-year-old female from Riyadh who is receiving intensive care in hospital. The two cases reported to WHO are from the Eastern Region of Riyadh. Both cases are male aged 22 and 67 years-of-age.

WHO has been informed of a total of 184 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 80 deaths worldwide since cases were first reported in September 2012.

Advice for Travellers

The risk associated with novel coronavirus to the general UK population remains extremely low and the risk to travellers to the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding countries remains very low.

Although the source of the virus and the mechanism of transmission is unknown, it would be prudent to try to reduce the general risk of infection while travelling by:

• Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.

• Frequent handwashing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.

• Adhering to food safety and hygiene rules such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables unless they have been peeled, or unsafe water.

• People at high risk of severe disease due to MERS-CoV should avoid close contact with animals when visiting farms or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating. For the general public, when visiting a farm or a barn, general hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals should be adhered to.

• People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands) and to delay travel until they are no longer symptomatic.

Travellers to the Middle East who develop symptoms either during travel or after their return are encouraged to seek medical attention and to share their history of travel.