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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia (Update)

12 Feb 2015

Ten new cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection were reported to WHO by the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia between 27 January-4 February 2015.

The cases were identified in Riyadh city (5), 4 male 1 female, Hofuf city (3), all male and Alkharj city (2), 1 male 1 female). The cases ranged in age between 26-80 years; 8 are reported to be in a stable condition, one is been monitored at home in isolation and the 80-year-old case unfortunately died on 01 February 2015.

One case in Riyadh city is a healthcare worker. Contact tracing of household and healthcare contacts is ongoing for these cases.

Globally, WHO has been notified of 975 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection, including at least 358 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.