Doctors have been warned to be on their guard for signs of camel flu as England fans return from the World Cup in Qatar. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, also known as camel flu, MERS or MERS-CoV, is a “rare but severe” illness that is considered to be a deadlier cousin of Covid-19.
Symptoms usually begin with a fever and a cough which can develop into pneumonia along with breathing difficulties. The “zoonotic” illness, which can be picked up by humans from camels and passed from person to person via droplets, was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has advised doctors to be mindful that the virus could make its way to the UK as England fans flock home. According to The Sun, the UKHSA sent out a briefing note which said: “Clinicians and public health teams should specifically be alert to the possibility of MERS in returning travellers from the World Cup.
“The risk of infection to UK residents is very low but may be higher in those with exposure to specific risk factors within the region – such as to camels. Clinicians and public health teams should specifically be alert to the possibility of MERS in returning travellers from the World Cup.”
The note also warned of “person-to-person” transmission, adding that there have already been two cases of camel flu reported in Qatar this year, both of which had been exposed to camels. The briefing note was issued to directors of public health along with directors of infection prevention and control across the NHS.
MERS is deadlier than coronavirus as more than a third of people who catch it die compared to less than 4% of Covid sufferers. There have been 2,600 cases between April 2012 and October 2022 in 12 Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.
It comes as England fans make the long trip home to the UK after the national team lost out in the World Cup quarter finals against France on Saturday (December 10).