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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia (Update)

02 Oct 2014

Laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia continue to be reported to WHO.

Between 11 August and 28 September 2014, 15 cases of MERS-CoV infection including 4 deaths were reported.

In August 2014, 4 cases, including 2 deaths were reported: Jubail (2), Riyadh (1), Najran (1). Three cases suffered 1 or more co-morbidities, 2 reported contact with animals or the consumption of raw camel milk, and 1 case is a healthcare worker.

In September 2014, 11 cases, including 2 deaths were reported: Taif (5), Riyadh (3), Najran (1), Jubail (1) and Raniah (1). Six cases suffered 1 or more co-morbidities, 2 reported contact with animals (e.g. sheep or camel) or the consumption of raw camel milk, and 4 are reported as healthcare workers.

Globally, 852 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including at least 301 related deaths have been reported to WHO.

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.