Travellers to the Middle East could be at risk from a potentially fatal illness originating from dromedary camels.
Known commonly as “camel flu”, Middle East Respiratory Sydney Conavirus (MERS-CoV) was first reported by the World Health Organisation in September 2012. The severe respiratory illness has a fatality rate of around 40%.
Cases of the rapid onset disease have since been reported across the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE, with other countries also reporting cases among travellers returned from these countries.
People with underlying conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, asthma, lung diseases, cancer or cardiovascular disease may be more susceptible. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, with some patients reporting other problems like muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and nausea.
While there have been no cases in Australia to date, the Smartraveller service passed on recommendations from the WHO to avoid the spread of the disease, for which there is no vaccine.
“Appropriate precautions might include avoiding contact with camels, good hand hygiene, and avoiding drinking raw milk or eating food that may be contaminated with animal secretions or products unless they are properly washed, peeled or cooked,” it said.
“All travellers should adhere to general hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals, and following food hygiene practices when visiting a farm or bran in MER-CoV affected countries.”
It advised any traveller feeling unwell and with any of the symptoms listed above to seek Immediate medical attention.