New case of MERS-CoV identified in the United Kingdom

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A new case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been confirmed by Public Health England (PHE) on the 23 August. Health authorities are identifying close contacts of the patient as a precautionary measure. This is the fifth case of MERS-CoV diagnosed in England, where there have been no cases since 2013.

The patient is a resident of the Middle East, where they are believed to have been infected before travelling to the UK. The case was initially admitted to a hospital in Leeds and subsequently transferred to the Royal Liverpool Hospital, an expert respiratory infectious disease centre. The patient is currently stable and receiving treatment.

The national authorities are currently identifying close contacts with the individual to monitor their symptoms and provide health advice. This includes a small number of passengers who travelled in close proximity to the patient on flight Saudi Arabian Airlines SV123 to the UK on 16 August. In its risk assessment, ECDC recommends that close contacts of confirmed cases must be monitored for symptoms for 14 days after the last exposure.

Imported cases of MERS-CoV are not unexpected and have been observed in Europe before.  According to Public Health England (PHE), the risk of transmission to the general population from this case is very low. The rapid diagnosis and prompt management decreases the risk of transmission within the healthcare services in UK.

Healthcare professionals should remain vigilant for patients with respiratory symptoms among travellers returning from the Middle East, especially following contacts with camels or healthcare facilities in the region.

ECDC is preparing a risk assessment and remains in close contact with Public Health England and WHO to monitor further developments.