Public Health England (PHE) was today (2 May 2014) advised of a suspected case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) in a person flying from Riyadh to Chicago and transiting through London on Thursday (24 April 2014). Positive diagnosis was confirmed by the United States Centre for Disease Control on Friday evening (UK time).
The passenger, who is not a UK national, was on British Airways Flight 262 from Riyadh to London, and transferred at Heathrow for onward travel to the USA, where they were later hospitalised with suspected MERS-CoV.
The risk of the infection being passed to other passengers on Flight 262 is extremely low. However, as a precautionary measure, PHE has contacted UK passengers who were sitting in the vicinity of the affected passenger to provide health information.
Any UK based passengers on Flight 262 on 24 April 2014 who have since become unwell or experienced respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath are advised to contact NHS 111.
PHE will also work with the US health authorities to contact any UK passengers on the 24 April onward flight from London to Chicago, American Airlines Flight 99.
The period between exposure and when symptoms might develop (the incubation period) for MERS-CoV is currently considered to be up to 14 days. Any illness that passengers might experience more than 14 days after the flight (i.e. starting on or after Friday 9 May 2014), would not be considered to be related.
There is presently no evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission of MERS-CoV, and the risk of contracting infection in the UK remains very low.
MERS-CoV is a new type of coronavirus, first identified in a Middle Eastern citizen in 2012. Although cases continue to be reported from the Middle East, no new cases of MERS-CoV have been detected in the UK since February 2013.
Professor Nick Phin, Head of Respiratory Diseases for PHE said:
The risk is very low and human to human transmission of MERS-CoV is extremely rare, but we would ask any passengers from British Airways Flight 262 on 24 April to contact NHS 111 if they’re experiencing respiratory symptoms or have felt unwell since their flight.
Notes to editors
- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) was initially identified in a patient with severe respiratory symptoms in September 2012. Following its emergence, cases have continued to occur, primarily from within the 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, Phillipines, Tunisia).
Infection control advice for healthcare professionals is available from PHE’s dedicated web pages.
- 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. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health.
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