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Travel Bulletin from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade re (MERS-CoV)

Latest Update

This Bulletin was last issued on Tuesday, 06 May 2014, 17:14:37, EST.

There is ongoing concern about the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was first reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in September 2012. Cases of MERS-CoV have been reported in several countries of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Other countries outside the Middle East have also reported imported cases from returned travellers. All cases have either lived in or travelled to the Middle East, or had close contact with travellers returning from these areas. There have been no cases in Australia to date.

What are the symptoms and who is at risk?

MERS-CoV can cause a rapid onset of severe respiratory illness with a fatality rate of around 40%. There is no vaccine for MERS-CoV. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Some patients have reported a variety of other symptoms, including muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and nausea. Some patients have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. Severe cases have most frequently occurred in people with underlying conditions that may have made them more susceptible to infection (including diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, asthma and lung diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease).

Reducing the risk of exposure

Dromedary camels are suspected to be the source of infection for sporadic cases, but the exact routes of direct or indirect exposure remain unknown Person-to-person transmission has been documented, particularly in healthcare settings.

The WHO advises that people at potentially higher risk of severe disease due to MERS-CoV should take appropriate precautions when visiting farms, barn areas or market environments where camels are present in MERS-affected countries. Appropriate precautions might include avoiding contact with camels, good hand hygiene, and avoiding drinking raw milk or eating food that may be contaminated with animal secretions or products unless they are properly washed, peeled or cooked.

All travellers should adhere to general hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals, and following food hygiene practices when visiting a farm of barn in MER-CoV affected countries.

Seek immediate medical attention if you feel unwell with symptoms similar to MERS-CoV infection while travelling or on your return to Australia. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider that you have travelled to a region where MERS-CoV is known to occur. Avoid close contact with people who are ill with these symptoms.

More information

For more information about MERS-CoV, see the following websites:

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