Mers outbreak: London-bound passengers warned over virus

London Heathrow The BA flight passed through London Heathrow

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Health officials have issued advice to passengers after a suspected case of the Mers respiratory virus on board a flight passing through London.

Public Health England said a passenger on BA flight 262 from Riyadh, who passed through Heathrow on 24 April, had been admitted to a US hospital.

People sitting near the passenger have been contacted and anyone else feeling unwell should call the NHS 111 service.

Public Health England said the risk of infection was "extremely low".

Saudi Arabia has said more than 100 people infected with Mers - short for Middle East respiratory syndrome - have died since an outbreak began in 2012.

Middle East respiratory syndrome

  • The rate of Mers infections is increasing
  • The first fatality was recorded in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia
  • Coronaviruses like Mers are fairly fragile and easily destroyed by cleaning agents

Mers causes fever, pneumonia and kidney failure.

The infected man, believed to be a health care worker from Saudi Arabia, stopped at Heathrow before travelling on to Chicago.

No cases of Mers in the UK have been detected since February 2013, Public Health England said.

The infection is a coronavirus, a large family of viruses that also includes the common cold and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

Professor Nick Phin, head of respiratory diseases for Public Health England, said human-to-human transmission of the virus was "extremely rare".

But he told any passengers from the flight to call 111 if they experienced respiratory symptoms or felt unwell.

Mers has an incubation period of up to 14 days, so any illness starting after 9 May would not be related, Public Health England said.

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