UK & World News

  • 3 May 2014, 21:10

First US Case Of Killer Bug Travels Through UK

Authorities in the US and UK are trying to trace passengers who travelled on the same flight from London to Chicago as a man diagnosed with a potentially deadly Sars-like virus.

The American, who fell ill after flying to the US from Saudi Arabia where he was a healthcare worker, has Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (Mers-Cov).

The passenger had flown on a British Airways flight from Riyadh to Heathrow on April 24, before transferring to Chicago.

He fell ill on April 27 and went to a hospital in Indiana with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. He is currently in a good condition.

Public Health England (PHE) has contacted UK passengers on BA Flight 262 who were sitting near the affected passenger, but stressed the risk of infection was "extremely low".

Britons on the flight who become unwell or experience respiratory problems have been urged to contact NHS 111.

PHE is also working with US authorities to trace any UK passengers on the onward flight - American Airlines Flight 99 from London to Chicago.

It is the first case of Mers-Cov in the US, after diagnosis was confirmed by the United States Centre for Disease Control in Indiana.

Doctor Thomas Briese, Associate Director of Columbia University's Centre for Infection and Immunity, said the case "does not mean that any epidemic is on the horizon or that it will spread".

Mers-Cov belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed 800 people in 2003.

Mers-Cov has been found in camels, but officials do not know how it is spread to humans.

Since mid-March, 111 people have tested positive in the Jeddah area of Saudi Arabia, World Health Organisation figures show - the biggest increase in the Mers-Cov outbreak since it was detected in April 2012.

There have been 401 confirmed cases of Mers-Cov infection in 12 countries including 93 deaths, according to the US Centre for Disease Control.

Doctor Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was "not surprised at all" at the news, "given the amount of travel and air traffic between people in the United States and people in the Middle East".

He said: "There's no question something like this was going to happen."

Three people have died so far in the UK as a result of the infection - including one man who died at the end of June.

PHE said the last case to be detected in the UK was in February last year.

Cases have also been reported in France, Germany, Italy and Greece, across the Middle East in Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman and in other countries including Malaysia, the Philippines and Tunisia.

PHE said the period between exposure to Mers-Cov and when symptoms might develop is up to 14 days.

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