TWO people have died after catching the highly contagious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), experts have warned.

The unnamed men, aged 42 and 85, were diagnosed with the disease in Saudi Arabia in November 2022 and March 2023, respectively, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. 

All three men infected had consumed camel milk


All three men infected had consumed camel milk

Local health officials said another man, aged 83, tested positive for the bug in Saudi, but survived.

The deadly virus, which is usually passed on from infected animals like camels, kills approximately 35 per cent - more than a third - of those infected.

Two men infected had been in contact with camels and all men consumed raw camel milk in the days before their symptoms began.

And all three had underlying health conditions which could have made the disease worse.

The bug was also reported earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

MERS was first identified by scientists in Jordan in 2012, and has since resulted in over 2,617 infections and 947 deaths.

The majority of cases are reported in the Arabian Peninsula, but some have been discovered elsewhere - including one in the UK in 2018 and another in 2013.

The bug is part of the coronavirus family that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

MERS is more deadly but less transmissible that it's sister bug, Covid-19.

On August 29, the WHO predicted more cases or MERS to arise.

It said: "WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East and/or other countries where MERS-CoV is circulating in dromedaries."

The NHS suggests all travellers going to the Middle East regular washing their hands with soap and water, especially after visiting farms, barns or market areas.

Travellers should also avoid contact with camels, raw camel milk or products and any food that may be contaminated with animal fluids.

MERS symptoms

MERS is a respiratory virus, and symptoms can range from mild to severe

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • diarrhoea and vomiting

There's no specific treatment for MERS.

Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms.

Source: NHS

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