A YOUNG man is in a critical condition in hospital with contagious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), experts have warned.

The 28-year-old man tested positive for the viral bug in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday.

MERS kills up to 35 per cent of those it infects


MERS kills up to 35 per cent of those it infectsCredit: Alamy

The deadly virus, which is usually passed on from infected animals like camels, kills about a third (35 per cent) of those infected, according to the WHO.

Local health officials have checked 108 people the young man was in contact with, but no secondary infections had turned up so far, it added.

MERS was first identified by scientists in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and has since resulted in over 2,605 infections and 936 deaths.

The majority of cases are reported in the Arabic world, but some have been discovered elsewhere - including one in the UK in 2018.

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 less transmissible that it's sister bug, Covid-19.

The WHO said the latest case involved a non-UAE national that attended a private medical clinic multiple times between June 3 and 7.

He had been complaining of vomiting, right flank pain and pain when going for a pee.

On June 8 he visited a public hospital with vomiting and gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea.

He was given an initial diagnosis of acute pancreatitis, acute kidney injury, and sepsis.

The man was said to be in a critical condition by June 13, and was referred to an intensive care unit (ICU) at a specialist hospital where was put on mechanical ventilation.

He tested positive for MERS-CoV by PCR on June 23, 2023.

He had no known co-morbidities, no history of contact with MERS-CoV human cases, or camels, and had not travelled recently outside the UAE.

Professor Francois Balloux, a geneticist at University College London, said despite the case being "unusual" he does not suspect it to be a more dangerous strain of the bug.

He told The Sun: "The case is slightly unusual insofar the patient is very ill despite being young and apparently having been in good health before the infection.

"Also, so far UAE authorities have been unable to identify the source of exposure of the patient.

"This being said, the fact that the patient has apparently himself infected none of the people he has been in close contact with does not suggest we are facing a more transmissible, more virulent strain of MERS-CoV.”

MERS symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • diarrhoea and vomiting

You should call a GP or NHS 111 if you have symptoms and believe you could have caught the infection.

This includes if you fall ill with these symptoms after having recently been to the Middle East or have been in contact with someone with a confirmed infection.

Source: NHS

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