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    Imported From Jeddah: Patient Diagnosed With UK's First Case of MERS Since 2013

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    A patient from the Middle East is being treated for the killer MERS virus in England, Public Health England has confirmed - and the body is now desperately trying to locate passengers who travelled on the same journey from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as the unnamed individual, fearing they too may be infected.

    The patient — a resident of the Middle East, whose name, age and gender cannot be released — flew into Manchester airport, was subsequently diagnosed at a hospital in Leeds, before being moved to a specialist centre in Liverpool.

    MERS, caused by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, kills a third of those it afflicts — it has no known cure, and is considered one of the 10 most urgent threats to humanity by the World Health Organization, along with alarming viruses Ebola and Zika, which have both caused brutal pandemics in since 2014.

    Poorly understood by virologists, MERS produces many of the same symptoms as a common cold — but can fatally lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. It can be spread by touching infected camels, or infected individuals.

    As a result, Public Health England are seeking to contact anyone who had "close and sustained" contact with the patient — particularly those who flew from Jeddah with Saudi Arabian Airlines on flight SV123 August 16.

    A Rarity

    It's only the fifth case of MERS to be diagnosed in England — but comes not long after Public Health England warned the risk of "imported cases" in the UK was high and rising, and health professionals "should remain vigilant".

    In particular, the organization expressed anxiety over Muslim Britons contracting the virus during ‘Hajj' or ‘Umrah' — pilgrimages to Mecca that every Muslim's duty to complete. Around four million Muslims from around the world take part in the former each year, with an estimated 25,000 hailing from the UK.

    Police officers wearing masks as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) stand guard during a rally in Seoul, South Korea
    © AP Photo / Lee Jin-man
    Police officers wearing masks as a precaution against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) stand guard during a rally in Seoul, South Korea
    Nonetheless, the disease is largely restricted to the Arabian Peninsula, with over 90 per cent recorded in Saudi Arabia. However, there a numerous instances of the disease being exported to France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

    In all, around 2,230 cases of MERS and 791 deaths have been reported to the WHO since it was first identified in 2012.

    Worrying

    The troubling news follows mere hours after the first case of donovanosis — a rare sexually transmitted disease causing flesh-eating ulcers to appear near an individual's genitals — was diagnosed in the UK. The STD is typically only found in tropical regions, including parts of India, Papua New Guinea, the Caribbean, central Australia and southern Africa.

    Passengers get their temperature checked as part of preventive measures against the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at the Hong Kong international airport on June 5, 2015
    © AFP 2019 / Philippe Lopez
    Passengers get their temperature checked as part of preventive measures against the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at the Hong Kong international airport on June 5, 2015
    Although the virus, also known as granuloma inguinale, is treatable with mere antibiotics, infected individuals should seek medical attention quickly. Even with antibiotic use, patients are still at risk of relapse for six to eight months post-treatment. The disease is also a risk factor in the transmission of HIV.

    Related:

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    Seven New Cases of MERS Emerge in Saudi Arabia – Health Ministry
    Tags:
    pandemic, Zika, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), MERS, Ebola outbreak, virus, Public Health England, World Health Organization, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia
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