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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

MERS-CoV in Saudia Arabia (Update)

03 Dec 2014

Eighteen new cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, including 4 deaths, were reported to WHO by the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia between 3-19 November 2014. The cases were residents of:

  • Riyadh - 9 cases.
  • Taif - 3 cases.
  • Alkharj - 3 cases.
  • Skaka - 2 cases.
  • Jeddah - 1 case.

Eleven of the cases are male and 7 female; ages ranging from 22-99 years. Nine cases have co-morbidities, 7 have links to a healthcare setting, 3 have had exposure to camels and camel milk, the remainder have no history of exposure to other known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms.

Globally, WHO has been notified of 927 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection, including at least 338 related deaths.

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.