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Update on latest MERS situation in Saudi Arabia
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (February 19) closely monitoring four additional cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by Saudi Arabia from August 13, 2023, to February 1, 2024. The CHP again urged the public to pay special attention to safety and take due consideration of the health risks when visiting other places.
     According to the WHO, the four additional cases involve two male and two female patients aged 59 to 93 with underlying illnesses. Two have passed away. Of the four cases, one was a camel owner, and another one had a history of indirect contact with dromedary camels.
     According to the latest information, 2 609 MERS cases have been reported to the WHO (with 939 deaths) since 2012.
     "We will maintain close communication with the WHO and relevant health authorities," a spokesman for the CHP said.
     "As countries in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, continue to report MERS cases from time to time, travellers should refrain from going to farms, barns or markets with camels and avoid contact with sick persons and animals, especially camels, birds or poultry. Most of the cases reported in the Middle East had a history of exposure to camels, consumption of camel milk or contact with other MERS patients," the spokesman said.
     "Scientific evidence shows that camels are reservoirs for MERS Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Camels infected with MERS-CoV may not show any signs of infection. Infected animals may shed MERS-CoV through nasal and eye discharge and faeces, and potentially in their milk and urine. The virus may also be found in the raw organs and meat of infected animals. Therefore, the best protection is to practise good hygiene and avoid direct contact with all of these," the spokesman added.
     From time to time, suspected MERS cases reported to the CHP for investigation involve patients with a history of contact with camels in the Middle East. The CHP strongly advises travel agents organising tours to the Middle East to abstain from arranging camel rides and activities involving direct contact with camels, which are known risk factors for acquiring MERS-CoV.
     ‚ÄčTravellers to affected areas should maintain vigilance, adopt appropriate health precautions and take heed of personal, food and environmental hygiene. The public may visit the MERS page of the CHP and its Travel Health Service to learn more about MERS statistics in affected areas. The public should also refer to the CHP's Facebook page and YouTube channel and the WHO's latest news for more information and health advice. Tour leaders and tour guides operating overseas tours are advised to refer to the CHP's health advice on MERS.
Ends/Monday, February 19, 2024
Issued at HKT 18:00
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