Be alert to deadly illness.
People returning to Birmingham from the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia have been advised to be aware of the symptoms of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
Many Muslims from across the city are now returning from the pilgrimage to Mecca, and though health bosses have stressed the risk to most travellers is very low, a recent increase of MERS cases in Saudi Arabia means pilgrims and their families should be aware of the symptoms.
The symptoms of MERS are include fever, shortness of breath and coughing.
Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, said: “We must stress that for most people returning from Hajj the risk is very low. Travellers returning from the Middle East and surrounding countries, with mild respiratory symptoms, are most likely to have a common respiratory illness such as a cold. That said, it does make sense for people to be aware of the symptoms and to be on their guard.
“So if you, a relative or a friend experiences fever, shortness of breath and coughing within 14 days of being in the Middle East, it makes sense to call your doctor or NHS 111 quickly. It is important to tell them where you have travelled, so that appropriate measures can be taken.”
MERS is contagious, but fortunately requires close contact to be spread. Camels are thought to play an important role in transmission to humans. However, the source of infection and transmission modes of MERS-CoV are still not completely understood. No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available.
Until more is understood about MERS-CoV, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons are considered to be at high risk.
As of 9th September 2015, 1542 cases of MERS-CoV have been reported to WHO with at least 544 related deaths. Most cases have been reported from the Arabian Peninsula particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
For the latest MERS advice and information from Public Health England, go to: www.gov.uk/government/publications/mers-cov-risk-assessment