The Independent and Health-Informed Tourist?

Mers-virus-3D-imageFULLBy Scinceside – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

An innocuous visit to Dubai
A young friend of my extended family was recently taken seriously ill and ended up in a London hospital following a short trip to Dubai to visit a partner working abroad for a few months. The symptoms of the infection, taken together with the location, and the fact that the trip involved taking a camel ride, led the hospital to suspect deadly MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome). Acting on that basis, the partner was tested in a local hospital in Dubai and sent home to wait-out the 14 day transmission window for this disease.

About MERS
Its caused by a coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and infection is linked to travel in the Middle East and close contact with camels, camel secretions and uncooked camel products. The fatality rate is 40%, but deaths are usually linked to underlying medical conditions which weaken the immune response. There is no vaccine: disease transmission is controlled by hygiene, by contact tracing of confirmed cases and the wearing of personal protective equipment by hospital staff (1). Since 2012, 27 countries (including UK) have reported 2266 cases, the majority in Saudi Arabia, with a serious imported outbreak in 2015 in South Korea.

Fortunately the friend turned out not to have MERS but it was a very difficult and traumatic 24 hours finding information to reassure relatives (40% fatality is a scary statistic) … and it set me thinking:

How much can you be expected to know as an independent traveller and what is the responsibility of your tour organiser to inform you? Continue reading

Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus Syndrome strikes the UK

   Coughs  Sneezes Spread Diseases2
This week
, the UK became the latest country in 2015 to suffer suspected MERS cases.  Two suspected cases of the Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus Syndrome (MERS) have forced a hospital in Manchester to shut its emergency department.  In May, similar events in South Korea (MERS-CoV in Republic of Korea at a glance), mishandled through ignorance and poor infection control within several hospitals, caused multiple outbreaks and a national emergency. Manchester has obviously learnt from their experience.

MERS is the latest virus to act as a global threat, hot on the heels of Ebola and SARS. It emerged in 2012 and has been an ongoing problem spreading to 10 countries in the Middle East, but the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, replaced it in world headlines (read MERS the next pandemic threat, which appeared also in the Global Health Knowledge Base.

What would happen should MERS ever reach a country with a poor health system?

Continue reading