World Cup 'camel flu' warning

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World Cup ‘camel flu’ warning: Experts list MERS – which kills up to a THIRD of everyone it strikes – as one of eight potential disease threats at Qatar tournament

  • WHO-backed experts fear ‘camel flu’ could spread at this year’s World Cup
  • Dozens of people have fallen ill with MERS in host nation Qatar over past decade
  • Disease experts listed MERS as one of nine ‘infection risks’ during tournament

It’s not just ‘football fever’ that could spread at this year’s World Cup.

World Health Organization-backed experts fear ‘camel flu’ — a deadlier cousin of Covid — might, too.

Dozens of people have fallen ill with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in host nation Qatar over the past decade. 

It kills up to a third of everyone who gets infected. 

Disease experts listed MERS as one of eight potential ‘infection risks’ during the four-week long tournament. 

Covid and monkeypox were named as the two most likely threats.

Camels are thought to be the natural host of the virus, which is from the same family as the virus behind the Covid pandemic

Camels are thought to be the natural host of the virus, which is from the same family as the virus behind the Covid pandemic

MERS SYMPTOMS: Its symptoms include a fever, cough, breathing difficulties, diarrhoea and vomiting

MERS SYMPTOMS: Its symptoms include a fever, cough, breathing difficulties, diarrhoea and vomiting

What are the World Cup infection risks? 

1. Covid

2. Monkeypox

3. MERS

4. Vector-borne diseases (cutaneous leishmaniasis, malaria, dengue, rabies)

5. Measles

6. Hepatitis A 

7. Hepatitis B

8. Travellers’ diarrhoea

Writing in the journal New Microbes and New Infections, an academic trio said the World Cup ‘unavoidably poses infectious disease risks’.

Professor Patricia Schlagenhauf, an epidemiologist from the WHO’s Collaborating Centre for Travellers’ Health, and team said this applied to Qatar and neighbouring countries. 

Qatar borders Saudi Arabia, where MERS was first reported a decade ago.

Illnesses could also be exported to other countries, like Britain and the US, because of the sheer amount of fans who’ve travelled to Qatar to watch the tournament, the experts suggested.

Around 5,000 England and Wales fans are believed to be heading to the Arab state for the group stages.

They make up just a fraction of the 1.2million supporters expected to flock to Qatar for the historic tournament.

Britain has only ever recorded five cases of MERS, most recently in a traveller from the Middle East in August 2018. 

Human-to-human transmission is possible, according to health chiefs.

Camels are thought to be the natural host of the virus, which is from the same family as the virus behind the Covid pandemic. 

Because of this, health chiefs already recommend that all travellers to the region avoid touching the mammals.

They should also avoid drinking camel milk or urine or eat camel meat that has not been properly cooked, infectious disease scientists behind the latest warning said. 

Anyone coming back to Britain with tell-tale MERS symptoms, which are like that of a cold or flu, are told to seek medical advice and share their travel history, so infection control and testing can be done.

Similar measures sparked an Ebola scare in the UK last week, after a person in the UK who had been in Uganda — where the virus is roaming — developed cold-like symptoms.

There is no specific treatment for the illness, so doctors work to ease a patient’s symptoms. Around 35 per cent of those who get MERS die as a result. 

Dr Jaffar Al-Tawfiq, an infectious disease consultant at Saudi Arabia’s Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare, and Dr Philippe Gautret, from Aix Marseille University in France, were the other two researchers.

What is ‘camel flu’? 

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), also known as camel flu, is a rare but severe respiratory illness.

People can catch MERS from infected animals — though doctors say camels in the Middle East are the main source of the virus. The virus was first detected region in 2012.

It can also be transmitted through an infected person’s cough droplets — but this is rare.

There have been five cases of MERS in the UK since 2012, with the most recent occurring in August 2018.

Its symptoms include a fever, cough, breathing difficulties, diarrhoea and vomiting.

There is no specific treatment for the illness, so doctors work to ease a patient’s symptoms.

Around 35 per cent of those who get MERS die as a result.

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