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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia (Update)

31 Oct 2014

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

Six new cases were reported via the Minstry of Health report on 29 October 2014, with a further three new cases in the 30 October ministry report. Following a recent period of low numbers of new cases, 35 cases have been reported since 1 October 2014.

In Saudi Arabia, 789 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including 337 related deaths have been reported to WHO since June 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.

Advice for Healthcare Professionals

Consider the possibility of MERS-CoV infection in travellers with fever, cough, shortness of breath, or breathing difficulties, or other symptoms suggesting an infection, and with a recent history (within 14 days) of travel in the Middle East.

If a diagnosis of MERS–CoV infection is considered possible, apply infection prevention and control measures recommended by WHO, or outlined in national guidance, and refer the patient to a special infectious disease unit for further investigation.

Further information on MERS CoV