Confirmed case of MERS-CoV in United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has confirmed a single case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in a male resident of Saudi Arabia who had been visiting his family. The patient initially sought medical care at a hospital in Leeds, where he was put into isolation. He was later transferred to a specialist infectious disease facility in Liverpool. The patient’s condition has improved and he continues to be in isolation.

Authorities of the United Kingdom are currently tracing and following up with those who were in contact with the patient during the flight, with family members, and with individuals in the community and at health-care facilities. This is the fifth case of MERS-CoV diagnosed in the United Kingdom; previous cases were diagnosed in 2012 and 2013.

Low risk of transmission for general population

Human-to-human transmission of MERS-CoV has occurred mainly in health-care settings or when someone has been in close contact with an infected person for a sustained period of time. The risk of transmission is low if adequate infection prevention and control measures are taken.

WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East and that sporadic cases will continue to be exported to other countries. WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because, as with other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERS-CoV are non-specific. Therefore, health-care workers should consistently apply standard precautions with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.