- WHO-backed experts fear ‘camel flu’ could spread at this year’s World Cup
- Dozens of people have fallen ill with MERS in the past decade in host country Qatar
- Disease experts list MERS as one of nine ‘infection risks’ during the tournament
It is not just ‘football fever’ that could spread in this year’s World Cup.
World Health Organisation-backed experts fear ‘camel flu’ – which could also be a deadlier cousin of Covid.
Dozens of people have fallen ill with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in host country Qatar over the past decade.
It kills up to a third of all people who become infected.
Disease experts listed MERS as one of eight possible ‘infection risks’ that could theoretically emerge during the four-week-long tournament.
Covid and monkeypox were named as the two most likely threats.
Camels are known to be the natural host of the virus, which is from the same family as the virus behind the Covid pandemic
MERS Symptoms: Its symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, diarrhea and vomiting
What are the World Cup infection risks?
4. Vector Borne Diseases (Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, Malaria, Dengue, Rabies)
6. Hepatitis A
7. Hepatitis B
8. Travelers’ Diarrhea
journal writing new microbes and new infectionsAn academic trio said the World Cup ‘inevitably poses infectious disease risks’.
Professor Patricia Schlagenhauf, an epidemiologist at the WHO Collaborating Center for Travelers’ Health, and team said the same applies to Qatar and neighboring countries.
Qatar is bordered by Saudi Arabia, where MERS was first reported a decade ago.
Experts suggested the diseases could also be exported to other countries such as Britain and the US, because of the huge amount of fans traveling to Qatar to watch the tournament.
Around 5,000 England and Wales fans are thought to be heading to the Arab state for the group stages.
They make up only a fraction of the 1.2 million supporters flocking to Qatar for the historic tournament.
The UK has so far recorded only five cases of MERS, most recently in August 2018 in a traveler from the Middle East.
According to health chiefs, human-to-human transmission is possible.
Camels are known to be the natural host of the virus, which is from the same family as the virus behind the Covid pandemic.
Because of this, health chiefs already recommend that all travelers to the area avoid touching the mammals.
The infectious disease scientists behind the latest warning said they should avoid drinking camel milk or urine or eating camel meat that hasn’t been cooked properly.
Anyone returning to the UK with MERS symptoms, which are cold or flu-like symptoms, are asked to seek medical advice and share their travel history, so that infection control and testing can be carried out.
Similar measures sparked an Ebola scare in the UK last week, after a man in the UK who had been in Uganda – where the virus is circulating – developed cold-like symptoms.
There is no specific treatment for the disease, so doctors work to ease the patient’s symptoms. About 35 percent of people who get MERS die as a result.
Dr Jafar Al-Tawfiq, an infectious disease consultant at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare in Saudi Arabia, and Dr Philippe Gautret from Aix Marseille University in France were the other two researchers.
What is ‘camel flu’?
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), also known as camel flu, is a rare but serious respiratory illness.
People can catch MERS from infected animals – although doctors say camels are the main source of the virus in the Middle East. The virus was first detected in 2012.
It can also be transmitted through cough droplets of an infected person – but this is rare.
Five cases of MERS have been reported in the UK since 2012, with the most recent occurring in August 2018.
Its symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, diarrhea and vomiting.
There is no specific treatment for the disease, so doctors work to ease the patient’s symptoms.
About 35 percent of those who get MERS die as a result.
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