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Warning issued on Middle East respiratory syndrome

Coloured transmission electron micrograph of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus particles

Source: AMI IMAGES/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

The first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus was confirmed in Saudi Arabia in 2012

Travellers are being warned about the risks associated with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Public Health England (PHE) is also asking community pharmacists to refer customers who have visited the Middle East within the past 14 days to their GP or the NHS 111 helpline if they show any symptoms of the coronavirus, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

PHE’s head of respiratory diseases, Nick Phin, reassured the public that the risk of anybody contracting the disease in the UK “remains very low”.

“While it’s unlikely pharmacists would come into contact with suspected MERS cases, we would advise they remain vigilant for symptoms,” he says.

PHE has advised travellers to the Middle East to avoid camels, their milk and meat. Good hand hygiene should also be observed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), on 28 May, there were 636 confirmed cases of Mers-CoV, including 193 fatalities, since the first case was confirmed in Saudi Arabia in 2012. There were 17 confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia alone between 16 and 18 May.

The WHO’s advice is for health organisations to be on the lookout for any symptoms of severe acute respiratory infections and to “review any unusual patterns”. Infection protection and control measures should be routinely practised in any suspected MERS-CoV cases because it is not always possible to confirm the virus at an early stage, it says.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138822

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Supplementary images

  • Coloured transmission electron micrograph of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus particles

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