Thursday 22 February 2018

Irish tourists going abroad warned about deadly 'first cousin' of Sars

A Sars outbreak led to airports checking the temperature of passengers in 2003. Photo: REUTERS
A Sars outbreak led to airports checking the temperature of passengers in 2003. Photo: REUTERS

Gavin White

Irish holidaymakers travelling abroad have been warned about the deadly "first cousin" of the Sars virus.

Posters warning travellers of the deadly Mers-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus) have been placed in Dublin Airport as over 2,000 cases have been reported since 2012 by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Graham Fry, medical director for the Tropical Medical Bureau, a company that offers vaccinations, said Mers was a "highly infectious disease" and a "significant problem in Saudi Arabia".

Typical Mers symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath and although pneumonia is common, it is not always present. Diarrhoea has also been reported.

Some laboratory-confirmed cases of Mers are reported as not having any clinical symptoms, yet they are positive following a laboratory test.

About 35pc of reported patients with Mers have died while Dr Fry said the mortality rate could be as high as 50pc.

Dr Fry said there currently were "no vaccinations and no specific treatment available" for the deadly disease, bar standard anti-viral procedures.

"It is the first-cousin of Sars and it hasn't been widely reported, as it hasn't had a huge impact in Europe just yet," Dr Fry said.

An outbreak of Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in southern China killed nearly 800 people between 2003 and 2004, and the disease spread to almost 40 countries.

"[Mers] is a very infectious disease and once in care it's a barrier setting to help stop the spread from human to human," Dr Fry said.

A spokesperson for the HSE said travellers should "avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections and wash your hands after contact with ill people and their environment".

"Cases occurring outside of the Middle East have been mainly due to the importation of cases with a travel history to the Middle East and subsequent transmission within healthcare settings," the spokesperson said.

The majority of human cases of Mers have been attributed to human-to-human infections in health care settings.

However, current scientific evidence suggests that dromedary camels are a major reservoir host for Mers.

Healthcare-associated outbreaks have occurred in several countries, with the largest outbreaks seen in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and South Korea.

Dr Fry also said that the Zika virus had "not gone away" and many young couples looking to have a child had visited their centres for screening.

A total of 70 countries have reported evidence of mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission since 2015.

Irish Independent

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