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MERS-CoV in the United States (Ex Saudi Arabia)

05 May 2014

On Friday 2 May 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the first imported case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection (MERS-CoV) in the United States. MERS-CoV has been laboratory confirmed and the case is an American male who was in Saudi Arabia as a healthcare worker.

On 24 April 2004, the case travelled by plane from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Chicago, Illinois via London. He then travelled from Chicago to Indiana by bus. On the 27 April, he developed respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, coughing, and fever. The case was admitted to hospital and is now being cared for in isolation and is in a stable condition.

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.

 Further information on MERS CoV