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MERS-corona virus

9 Oct. 2014
MERS-corona virus

The number of cases infected with the MERS-corona virus has recently increased in Saudi-Arabia and some neighboring countries in the Middle East. Some cases have also been reported closer to home, but these are import cases after a recent stay in the Middle East. In this article we give an overview of the available information on this virus.

What is the MERS-corona virus?

The MERS-corona virus (or MERS) is a virus that causes human respiratory infections. Infections have occured in Saudi-Arabia and some other countries in the Middle East since 2012. These infections are often severe. The virus is related to the famous SARS-virus that caused an epidemic of serious respiratory infections in Asia and Canada in 2003.

We don’t have a lot of information about this new virus yet. Camels and dromedaries supposedly play an important role in the contagion. The infection can also be transmitted from human to human, but that happens less often. During the last weeks more cases of this infection have been reported in Saudi-Arabia.

In which countries does the MERS-corona virus appear?

Most cases so far have been reported in Saudi-Arabia, followed by the United Arabic Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait and Egypt. Some cases have also been seen outside the Middle East, but  there was always a link to a recent stay in the Middle East. Some import cases have been reported in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Greece and very recently also in the Netherlands. Such cases have also been reported in Northern Africa, South-East Asia and the United Stated.

I have planned a journey to the Middle East. What do I have to do now?

No negative travelling advice has been given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Saudi-Arabia or other countries in the Middle East, but travelers leaving for the Arabic peninsula or the Middle East are advised to take the following precautions in order to limit the risk of infection:

  • Regularly wash your hands with water and soap or use a disinfectant gel or fluid for the hands. Small flasks are available. It is useful to bring them along in the bagage (not in the hand luggage).
  • Try to cook or fry your food thoroughly, and always peel uncooked fruit and vegetables yourself. Do not drink tapwater.
  • Avoid insufficiently cooked meat, raw milk or food that was prepared in unhygienic circumstances.
  • Avoid contact with animals and their feces, particularly camels and dromedaries.
  • Avoid close contact with people having symptoms of respiratory infections like coughing or sneezing.

On 14 May 2014 the World Health Organization also informed its concern on the spreading of the virus, but it does not consider this as an emergency situation.

I have become ill during my stay in the Middle East. What do I have to do now?

Anyone having fever, coughing or showing signs of dyspnea during a stay in the Middle East, is advised to do the following:

  • Consult, if available, the medical staff or the local health authorities.
  • Limit contact with other people to a minimum in order to reduce the danger of possible contagion.
  • Cover mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw this tissue away in the trash bin after use.
  • Regularly wash your hands with water and soap. Use a disinfectant gel or fluid for the hands.

I recently came back from the Middle East. What do I have to do now?

Travelers having symptoms like fever, cough or respiratory problems up to two weeks after their return from the Arabic peninsula or the Middle East are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Consult a doctor as soon as possible. All Belgian hospitals were informed on the risk factors. They can diagnose correctly and offer the necessary care.
  • Limit contact with other people to a minimum in order to reduce the danger of possible contagion.
  • Cover mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw this tissue away in the trash bin after use.
  • Regularly wash the hands with water and soap. Regularly use a disinfectant gel or fluid for the hands.

Persons having close contact with travelers showing the above mentioned symptoms and who develop serious respiratory problems themselves, should immediately consult a doctor.

Where can I find more information?

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