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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS CoV) 

Introduction

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is due to infection with a virus, MERS-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) , discovered in 2012, in Saudi Arabia.

It is not yet precisely known how the infection spreads. Most infections have occurred after direct contact with dromedary camels or their products or after close contact with a person infected with MERS-CoV in a hospital or family home. The infection does not readily pass between humans.

Approximately 85% cases have occurred in Saudi Arabia. It has also been reported in other Middle Eastern countries.
Cases have occurred Europe, Asia and North America, linked to travel to the Middle East.  A case imported to South Korea in 2015 led to an outbreak in staff, patients and visitors to hospitals.

The Illness

MERS-CoV infection has an incubation period of 2-14 days.

Infection can cause no symptoms, a mild flu-like illness or a severe, life threatening illness.

Severe infection is more common in people who have compromised immune systems, diabetes, kidney failure or chronic lung disease.

Most Common Symptoms include

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Breathing difficulties.

Treatment

No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available. Treatment is supportive in hospital and intensive care facilities may be needed.

Prevention in Travellers

The risk to travellers to the Middle East is very low.

Travellers to the Middle East or other countries reporting cases (check individual country pages) are advised to:

  • Practise Food and Water Precautions, such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables unless they have been peeled, or unsafe water.
    • Avoid consumption of raw camel milk/urine, undercooked camel meat or camel products.
  • Wash-hands frequently, especially after contact with ill people or contact with animals.
    • Avoid close contact with live farm or wild animals, including camels.
    • Avoid close contact with people suffering from¬†respiratory infections.
  • Seek medical attention if compatible symptoms develop during or after travel, ensuring the travel history is mentioned.
    • People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice respiratory hygiene (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands) to reduce the spread of infection

Further Information

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