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Viral infections

Case of Middle East respiratory syndrome confirmed in Europe

New case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) confirmed in Austria

Source: Cultura RM / Alamy

There have been 853 laboratory-confirmed cases worldwide of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (pictured), including 301 related deaths

A new case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been confirmed in Europe after a 29-year-old Saudi Arabian sought treatment for an upper respiratory tract infection in Vienna two days after arriving from Doha, says the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The case is the first in Europe since a diagnosis in the Netherlands in May 2014. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, there have been four cases in the UK in travellers from the Middle East, although there have been no new UK diagnoses since February 2013. Other cases have been confirmed in France, Germany and the Netherlands (two each), and in Greece and Italy (one each). Of the 12 European cases, six people have died. 

MERS-CoV first appeared in 2012 and has been mainly confined to countries on or near the Arabian Peninsula. The virus spreads through close contact, but there is no evidence of sustained person-to person transmission. 

As of 2 October 2014, there have been 853 laboratory-confirmed cases worldwide, including 301 related deaths, according to the WHO. 

The annual Haj attracts millions of pilgrims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The crowded conditions are ripe for virus transmission. This year, the pilgrimage is taking place between 1–6 October 2014, and the WHO is encouraging states to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and review any unusual patterns.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20066708

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