GPs and travellers advised to be aware of MERS

Metro North Public Health Unit encourages GPs to be aware of the risk of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in patients attending and returning from the Muslim pilgrimage Hajj in Saudi Arabia this August.

Approximately 3000 Australians travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia each year for the annual Muslim pilgrimage, which is experiencing an ongoing outbreak of MERS, associated with infections in healthcare facilities and exposure to camels and camel products.

MERS is a viral respiratory illness caused by MERS coronavirus and has a high fatality rate. People with existing health conditions that make them more vulnerable to respiratory disease are at a higher risk of becoming very unwell or dying due to MERS.

GPs are encouraged to discuss with travellers how they can protect themselves from MERS:

  • avoid close contact with sick people and sick animals
  • wash hands regularly and take particular care when visiting places where animals are present
  • avoid consuming raw or undercooked camel products, such as meat, urine and milk, and
  • people with existing health problems should also avoid all contact with camels.

More information for both travellers and health professionals can be found at http://bit.ly/DoH-MERS.