Health officials warn British Muslims to avoid camels and raw milk as they travel to the holy city of Mecca amid fear of the deadly MERS virus
- Hajj will take place this year from 9 to 14 August, says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Millions of Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia
- People are encouraged to avoid camels, camel products and raw milk
- MERS kills about a third of the people who get it and can be spread between people
British Muslims traveling to the Middle East for pilgrimages have been warned to avoid camels because they can spread a potentially deadly virus.
The animals and products, such as their raw milk, can spread the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS), Public Health England said.
Hajj, the most important pilgrimage of Islam, runs from 9 to 14 August this year. Thousands of Britons are expected to travel to Saudi Arabia for the ritual.
And although there is only one & # 39; very low & # 39; risk of getting MERS, a patient was diagnosed with the killer virus in Leeds last year after making the trip.
Millions of people travel every year to the Saudi city of Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage in a Muslim ritual where they must visit the birthplace of Prophet Mohammed (photo: a time-lapse of people visiting the Great Mosque of Mecca in August last year year)
& # 39; We strongly recommend that travelers avoid contact with camels and consumption of camel products in the Middle East and practice good hand hygiene, & # 39; said Dr. Gavin Dabrera from PHE.
& # 39; Pilgrims returning from Hajj and Umrah with symptoms such as fever and cough or shortness of breath should immediately call their GP or NHS 111 and report their travel history within 14 days of departure from the Middle East. & # 39;
Worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, according to the World Health Organization, according to the World Health Organization, at least 2,449 people are infected with the disease and 845 of them have died.
WHAT IS MERS?
The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus is a viral respiratory disease that has recently been recognized in humans.
The virus kills around four in 10 patients. It was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
Since then, cases have cropped up in other countries, including the US, the UK and various countries in Europe.
Patients tend to show symptoms such as fever, cough or diarrhea about five days after infection.
People are more sensitive to MERS if they have pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes.
People with a weakened immune system – such as those on HIV medicines – also run a higher risk of getting MERS.
The biggest risks are:
- Recent travelers from the Arabian Peninsula
- People who have had close contact, such as caring for or living with, a sick traveler from the Arabian Peninsula
- People who have had close contact, such as caring for or living with, a confirmed case of MERS
- Medical personnel not using the recommended precautions against infection
- People who have been in contact with camels
According to the WHO, about one third of people who get the incurable disease die, but this can be an overestimate if no small cases are found.
Symptoms include breathing difficulties, cough, fever, vomiting and diarrhea and muscle pain.
There are already more than 150 cases of infection in Saudi Arabia – the home of the pilgrimage city of Mecca – this year.
And PHE said that there is & # 39; growing evidence & # 39; is that camels can spread the disease. It can also spread through close contact between people.
In his advice, PHE encourages people to practice good hygiene, especially after visiting farms or markets, avoiding raw milk and camel products and being vigilant about feverish symptoms.
Dr. Dipti Patel from PHE added: & # 39; Pilgrims are strongly advised to follow our specific guidelines to stay safe and healthy while traveling. & # 39;
Hajj is a Muslim ritual that visits the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad, the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
All Muslims must complete it at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to.
And Umrah is a smaller, optional trip where people can make the trip to Mecca at any time of the year.
Hajj takes place on specific dates, this year for less than a week, and about 3.7 million people are expected to travel there, including 25,000 from the UK.
So many people in one place can make it a top location for the spread of the MERS virus.
Last year's case in England was diagnosed with a resident of the Middle East who had traveled to Manchester by plane from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
PHE did not reveal whether it was a man or a woman, only that they had to be taken to a hospital in Liverpool for specialist care.
The government agency has contacted a number of people who have traveled with them on the plane, but no one has been diagnosed.
Dr. Jenny Harries, his medical director, said at the time: & # 39; It is important to emphasize that although a case has been identified, the overall risk of disease transmission to the public is very low. & # 39;
That was only the fifth time that a case of MERS was diagnosed in England, with previous cases in 2012/13.
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