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Press release: Public Health England update on MERS-CoV (May 14 2014)

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  • Press release: Public Health England update on MERS-CoV (May 14 2014)

    [Source: Public Health England, full page: (LINK).]


    Press release: PHE update on MERS-CoV


    Public Health England (<ABBR>PHE</ABBR>) has reaffirmed a commitment to monitoring and studying Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (<ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR>) in the UK and globally following today’s World Health Organisation (<ABBR>WHO</ABBR>) announcement.

    The <ABBR>WHO</ABBR> <ABBR>MERS</ABBR>-Coronavirus Emergency Committee announced today (14 May 2014) that although the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern have not yet been met, concerns about the current global <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> situation had ‘significantly increased’.

    After diagnosing one of the first cases of <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> in the world at the health protection laboratories in Colindale in September 2012, <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> has continued to be at the forefront of providing public health advice and information on <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR>.

    <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> lab staff have developed a series of tools for diagnosis and surveillance of <ABBR>MERS</ABBR> virus, giving us the ability to generate genomic sequences and measure antibody responses in response to an emerging infection. These tools are not only deployed in the UK, but can also support international investigations and responses within affected countries.

    In October 2012 <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> provided virological and epidemiological support to a <ABBR>WHO</ABBR> led mission to Doha, Qatar. We continue to provide virological and diagnostic support to Qatar, most recently in December 2013 when <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> ran a training course to enable Qatari scientists to undertake <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> testing.

    The respiratory diseases department and respiratory virus laboratory at <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> prepared a series of advice documents for both the general public and healthcare professionals including risk assessments and advice on how to manage cases. <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> is also working with UK airports on distributing printed materials to alert passengers flying to and from the Middle East about the risks of <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> and the signs and symptoms.
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    <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> scientists recently met to review the current risk assessment. The updated risk assessment concludes the risk to UK residents and travellers to the Middle East remains very low. No travel restrictions are recommended, however, good general food and hand hygiene measures are recommended.

    In addition, travellers are advised to avoid contact with camels in the Middle East and to avoid drinking raw camel milk and handling raw camel meat; this advice is particularly important for people with underlying or chronic medical conditions who may be at a greater risk of <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR>.

    Professor Nick Phin, Head of Respiratory Diseases for <ABBR>PHE</ABBR>, said:

    ‘’Cases of <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> continue to be reported from the Middle East. However, no new cases of <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> have been detected in the UK since February 2013.

    ‘’Although the source of <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> is currently unknown, there is growing evidence of the possible role of camels in transmitting <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> to humans. We advise travellers, particularly those with underlying or chronic medical conditions, to avoid contact with camels in the Middle East and practice good hand and respiratory hygiene to reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses.

    ‘’Healthcare professionals are advised to remain vigilant for severe unexplained respiratory illness occurring in anyone who has recently travelled in the Middle East, as well as any unexplained cluster of severe respiratory illness or healthcare worker with unexplained severe respiratory illness. <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> will continue to provide advice on infection control, urgent diagnostic investigation and identification of contacts of suspected cases who may need to be followed up to check on their health.’’

    Dr Brian McCloskey, Director of Global Health at <ABBR>PHE</ABBR>, said:

    ‘’The recent reports of cases in travellers visiting the region and the rise in global cases we’ve seen this month is concerning, and we will continue to monitor the global situation and adjust our risk assessment as appropriate.

    ‘’The risk of UK residents contracting infection in the UK remains very low. The risk to UK residents travelling to Middle Eastern countries may be slightly higher than within the UK, but is still very low.

    ‘’<ABBR>PHE</ABBR> will maintain its current enhanced levels of surveillance and continue to liaise with <ABBR>WHO</ABBR> and <ABBR>ECDC</ABBR> colleagues to ensure we have the best available information so that our advice is accurate and up to date.’’


    Notes to editors
    1. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (<ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR>) was initially identified in a patient with severe respiratory symptoms in September 2012. Following its emergence, cases have continued to occur, primarily from within Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, cases have been imported to several European countries (France, Germany, Italy, UK, Greece) as well as other parts of the Middle East (Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman) and the rest of the world (Malaysia, Philippines, Tunisia). For more information, visit <ABBR>PHE</ABBR>’s <A href="http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/MERSCoV/"><ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> webpages.
    2. The total number of laboratory confirmed cases in the UK remains at 4. There have been 3 deaths, 2 reported in February 2013 and 1 in July 2013. Since April 2014, <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> has been advised of 2 cases of <ABBR>MERS-CoV</ABBR> in passengers flying from Saudi Arabia to the US and transiting through London. The risk of the infection being passed to other passengers on aircraft is extremely low. However, as a precautionary measure, <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> undertook efforts to contact UK passengers who were sitting in the vicinity of the affected passengers to provide health information.
    3. Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk

    Infections press office: <ABBR>PHE</ABBR> press office – infections, 61 Colindale Avenue, London, NW9 5EQ, Email infections-pressoffice@phe.gov.uk, Phone 020 8327 7901, Out of hours 020 8200 4400


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