World Cup ‘camel flu’ warning: Experts name MERS – which kills up to a third of everyone it strikes – as one of eight possible disease threats at Qatar tournament
- WHO-backed experts fear ‘camel flu’ could spread during this year’s World Cup
- In the host country Qatar, dozens of people have become ill with MERS over the past ten years
- Disease experts named MERS one of nine “infection risks” during the tournament
It’s not just the ‘football fever’ that could spread during this year’s World Cup.
Experts backed by the World Health Organization fear that ‘camel flu’ – a deadlier cousin of Covid – could, too.
In the host country Qatar, dozens of people have become ill with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) over the past ten years.
It kills up to a third of everyone who becomes infected.
Disease experts named MERS one of eight possible “infection risks” during the four-week tournament.
Covid and monkeypox were cited as the two most likely threats.
Camels are believed to be the natural host of the virus, which is from the same family as the virus behind the Covid pandemic
MERS SYMPTOMS: The symptoms are fever, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea and vomiting
What are the World Cup contagion risks?
4. Vector-borne diseases (cutaneous leishmaniasis, malaria, dengue, rabies)
6. Hepatitis A
7. Hepatitis B
8. Traveler’s Diarrhea
In the journal New Microbes and New Infections, an academic trio writes that the World Cup “creates unavoidable infectious disease risks.”
Professor Patricia Schlagenhauf, an epidemiologist from the WHO’s Collaborating Center for Travellers’ Health, and his team said this applied to Qatar and neighboring countries.
Qatar borders Saudi Arabia, where MERS was first reported a decade ago.
Diseases could also be exported to other countries, such as Britain and the US, due to the sheer number of fans who have traveled to Qatar to watch the tournament, the experts suggested.
Around 5,000 England and Wales fans would head to the Arab state for the group stage.
They are just a fraction of the 1.2 million supporters expected to flock to Qatar for the historic tournament.
Britain has recorded just five cases of MERS, most recently in a Middle Eastern traveler in August 2018.
According to health chiefs, human-to-human transmission is possible.
Camels are believed to be the natural host of the virus, which is from the same family as the virus behind the Covid pandemic.
That’s why health chiefs are already recommending that all travelers to the region avoid touching the mammals.
They should also avoid drinking camel milk or urine or eating camel meat that has not been cooked properly, said infectious disease scientists behind the latest warning.
Anyone returning to Britain with telltale MERS symptoms, similar to those of a cold or flu, is told to seek medical advice and share their travel history so that 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 to Uganda – where the virus is rampant – developed cold symptoms.
There is no specific treatment for the disease, so doctors try to relieve a patient’s symptoms. About 35 percent of those who get MERS die as a result.
Dr. Jaffar Al-Tawfiq, an infectious disease consultant at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare in Saudi Arabia, 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 serious respiratory disease.
People can get MERS from infected animals — though doctors say camels are the main source of the virus in the Middle East. The virus was first detected in 2012.
It can also be transmitted through the cough drops of an infected person, but this is rare.
There have been five cases of MERS in the UK since 2012, the most recent being in August 2018.
The symptoms are fever, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea and vomiting.
There is no specific treatment for the disease, so doctors try to relieve a patient’s symptoms.
About 35 percent of those who get MERS die as a result.