For the second time in two weeks, a laboratory-confirmed Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case en route to the United States transited through London prompting Public Health England (PHE) to advise the public.


According to a PHE press release, Public Health England (PHE) was today (12 May 2014) advised of a case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) in a person flying from Jeddah to the USA and transiting through London on Thursday 1 May 2014.

The passenger was on Saudi Airlines flight 113 from Jeddah to London, and transferred at Heathrow for onward travel to the USA, where they were later confirmed positive for MERS-CoV.

Risk of transmission is considered extremely low but as a precautionary measure, PHE is working with the airline to be able to contact UK passengers who were sitting in the vicinity of the affected passenger to provide health information.

Any UK based passengers travellers on flight SV113 on 1 May who have since become unwell or experienced respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, are advised to seek medical advice.

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 Wednesday 14 May), would not be considered to be related.

Professor Nick Phin, Head of Respiratory Diseases for Public Health England said:

As with the incident earlier this month, the risk is very low. We will be following up with any UK passengers who were sitting in the vicinity of the passenger with MERS-CoV, as a precautionary measure.

Any UK based travellers who become unwell with a fever, cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of being in the Middle East, should make sure they call their doctor and tell them where they have travelled.

Although the source of MERS-CoV is currently unknown, there is growing evidence of the possible role of camels in transmitting MERS-CoV to humans. We advise travellers, particularly those with underlying or chronic medical conditions, to avoid contact with camels in the Middle East. All travellers should practice good hand and respiratory hygiene to reduce the risk of respiratory illness.