Health experts across the world have warned football fans returning from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar about the risk of bringing home the ‘camel flu’, a respiratory infection caused by the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus. An advisory posted on Australian health ministry’s website says that fans returning from Qatar should be aware of MERS, and asked people to reduce the risk of contracting the infection by “observing good hygiene practices, avoiding close contacts with camels and avoiding consuming uncooked meat or unpasteurised milk”.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has also asked doctors to look for people suffering from fever and breathing difficulties.
“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,” the UKHSA has said, according to Metro.
It has also warned of “person-to-person transmission”, the outlet further said in its report.
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The advisories come in the wake of an increase in the number of MERS cases across the globe. According to UKHSA data, 2,600 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV and 935 associated deaths were reported globally to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from April 2012 to October 2022.
First identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, MERS is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus. It is considered to be more dangerous than COVID.
What is MERS-COV?
It is a zoonotic virus, meaning it is transmitted between animals and people, as per the WHO website. It further said that the virus has been identified and linked to human infections in dromedary camels in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
The WHO further said that human-to-human transmission is possible and has occurred predominantly among close contacts and in health care settings. “Outside the health care setting, there has been limited human-to-human transmission,” the global health body added.
An estimated 35 per cent of MERS cases reported to WHO have died.