World Cup ‘cameline flu’ warning: Experts rank MERS – which kills up to a THIRD of all those it strikes – as one of eight potential disease threats at Qatar tournament
- WHO-backed experts fear ‘cameline flu’ could spread at this year’s World Cup
- Dozens of people have fallen ill with MERS in host country Qatar over the past decade
- Disease experts listed MERS as one of nine ‘infection risks’ during the tournament
It’s not just ‘football fever’ that could spread at this year’s World Cup.
Experts backed by the World Health Organization fear ‘cameline flu’ – a deadlier cousin of Covid – could be too.
Dozens of people have fallen ill with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in host country Qatar over the past decade.
It kills up to a third of all those infected.
Disease experts have listed MERS as one of eight potential ‘infection risks’ that could theoretically arise during the four-week tournament.
Covid and monkeypox were named as the two most likely threats.
Camels are believed to be the natural host for the virus, which is in the same family as the virus causing the Covid pandemic
SEA SYMPTOMS: Her symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea and vomiting
What are the risks of infection at the World Cup?
4. Vector-borne diseases (cutaneous leishmaniasis, malaria, dengue fever, rabies)
6. Hepatitis A
7. Hepatitis B
8. Traveller’s diarrhea
Writing in the journal New Microbes and New Infections, a university trio said the World Cup “inevitably presents infectious disease risks”.
Professor Patricia Schlagenhauf, epidemiologist at the WHO Collaborating Center for Travel Health, and her team said this applied to Qatar and neighboring countries.
Qatar borders Saudi Arabia, where MERS was first reported a decade ago.
The diseases could also be exported to other countries, such as Britain and the United States, due to the large number of fans who traveled to Qatar to watch the tournament, experts have suggested.
It is believed that around 5,000 supporters from England and Wales will travel to the Arab state for the group stages.
They represent just a fraction of the 1.2 million fans expected to flock to Qatar for this historic tournament.
Britain has only recorded five cases of MERS, most recently in a traveler from the Middle East in August 2018.
Human-to-human transmission is possible, according to health chiefs.
Camels are believed to be the natural host for the virus, which is in the same family as the virus causing the Covid pandemic.
For this reason, health chiefs are already recommending that all travelers to the region avoid touching mammals.
They should also avoid drinking camel milk or urine or eating camel meat that has not been properly cooked, said the infectious disease scientists behind the latest warning.
Anyone returning to Britain with telltale symptoms of MERS, which resemble those of a cold or flu, is urged to seek medical advice and share their travel history, so that infection control and tests can be performed.
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 roams – developed symptoms of a cold.
There is no specific treatment for the condition, so doctors work to relieve a patient’s symptoms. About 35% of those who contract MERS die from it.
Dr Jaffar Al-Tawfiq, an infectious disease consultant at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare in Saudi Arabia, and Dr Philippe Gautret, from the University of Aix Marseille in France, were the other two researchers.
What is “cameline flu”?
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, also known as cameline flu, is a rare but serious respiratory illness.
People can catch MERS from infected animals – although doctors say camels in the Middle East are the main source of the virus. The virus was first detected in the region in 2012.
It can also be transmitted through cough droplets from an infected person, 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 fever, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea and vomiting.
There is no specific treatment for the condition, so doctors work to relieve a patient’s symptoms.
About 35% of those who contract MERS die from it.