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Acute Respiratory Illness in the United Kingdom

25 Sep 2012

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has reported the diagnosis of one laboratory confirmed case of severe respiratory illness associated with a new type of coronavirus. The patient, who is from the Middle East and recently arrived in the UK, is receiving intensive care treatment in a London hospital.

In recent months, this new human coronavirus was also identified in a patient with acute respiratory illness in Saudi Arabia, who subsequently died.

Coronaviruses are causes of the common cold but can also include more severe illness, such as the virus responsible for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). This new virus, however, is different from any that have previously been identified in humans. Preliminary enquiries have revealed no evidence of illness in contacts of these two cases, including healthcare workers.

Advice for Travellers

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is not recommending travel restrictions at this point, including travel for Hajj Pilgrimage. The joint Saudi Arabia WHO travel advice for the Hajj remains unchanged. The UK is not recommending any travel restrictions at this point.

Travellers returning from the Middle East with mild respiratory symptoms are most likely to have a common respiratory illness such as a cold. 

If symptoms are more severe or worsen and include breathlessness, medical advice should be sought from the GP or NHS 24/NHS Direct. Travellers should inform the GP/Doctor about the countries of the Middle East they have visited.