Patient is diagnosed with killer MERS virus in Leeds

Patient is diagnosed with killer MERS virus in Leeds

Patient is diagnosed with killer MERS virus in Leeds as health officials scramble to contact passengers who were on the same plane from the Middle East

  • Public Health England said the patient was diagnosed at a hospital in Leeds
  • They are now receiving treatment at the specialist Royal Liverpool Hospital
  • The unidentified patient is from the Middle East – but officials haven’t said where

A patient from the Middle East is being treated for the killer MERS virus in England, health officials have today confirmed.

Public Health England said the unidentified patient was diagnosed at a hospital in Leeds, before being moved to a specialist centre in Liverpool.

The Government-run body is now scrambling to contact passengers who were on the same plane from Saudi Arabia to Manchester as the patient, amid fears they may also be infected. 

MERS, caused by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, kills a third of those it strikes. It is considered one of the 10 most urgent threats to humanity by the World Health Organization, as it has no cure.

Public Health England said the patient was initially admitted to a hospital in Leeds before being moved to a specialist hospital in Liverpool

As a precautionary measure, NHS staff have been advised on how to control the deadly virus, which can be spread through close contact.

MERS often leaves patients battling symptoms of a common cold – but it can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure, which can both prove deadly. 

It can be spread by touching infected camels or other humans struck down by the bug, although it is poorly understood by virologists.  

The patient is now receiving treatment at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, a specialist centre for respiratory infectious diseases.

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PHE said the patient is a resident of the Middle East, but did not clarify any further. It also said it wouldn’t release their age or gender because of patient confidentiality.

They are believed to have been struck down with MERS there, before travelling to the UK. 

People who may have been in close contact with the patient will now be contacted, to monitor their symptoms and give them rapid treatment if they are ill. 

This will include getting in touch with a number of passengers who travelled in close proximity to the patient on the same flight to the UK.

The patient flew from Jeddah with Saudi Arabian Airlines, on flight number SV123, on August 16.

Only passengers who sat on the three rows in front and behind the patient will be contacted because aircraft recycle and filter the air in the cabin, PHE said.

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy medical director at PHE, said: ‘A patient in hospital in Liverpool is being treated for MERS.


MERS is caused by the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus is viral respiratory illness that was recently recognized in humans.

The virus kills around four in 10 patients. It was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Since, cases have cropped up in other countries, including the US, UK and several countries in Europe.

Patients tend to show symptoms, such as a fever, cough or diarrhoea, about five days after being infected.

People are more susceptible to MERS if they have pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes.

Individuals with weakened immune systems – such as those on HIV drugs – are also at higher risk of getting MERS.

The most at-risk are: 

  • recent travelers from the Arabian Peninsula
  • people who have had close contact, such as caring for or living with, an ill traveler from the Arabian Peninsula
  • people who have had close contact, such as caring for or living with, a confirmed case of MERS
  • healthcare personnel who do not use recommended infection-control precautions
  • people who have had contact with camels

There are no known treatments that can cure the infection.

‘The patient is thought to have contracted the infection whilst in the Middle East before travelling to the UK. 

‘PHE is following up those who have had close and sustained contact with the patient to offer advice and to monitor them as necessary.

‘It is important to emphasise that although a case has been identified, the overall risk of disease transmission to the public is very low.

‘As we’ve seen in previous cases, we have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be strictly followed to minimise the risk of transmission.’ 

It is only the fifth time a case of MERS has been diagnosed in England, with previous cases diagnosed in 2012/13. An update will only be provided if there is a significant change to the patient’s condition, PHE said.

It comes after PHE at the start of this month revealed it was remaining ‘vigilant’ in the face of a MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia.

Officials feared the deadly virus may be brought back to the UK by Muslims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. 

PHE said no increase in travel-related MERS cases were noted across the world after last year’s Hajj – which every Muslim has to do at least once in their life. 

However, the body said the virus has been ‘imported to countries outside of Saudi Arabia following return from Umrah’ – a lesser pilgrimage that can be performed at any time.

Nearly four million Muslims from around the world take part in the Hajj each year, including an estimated 25,000 from the UK.

Nearly 2,230 cases of MERS and 791 deaths have been reported to the WHO since it was first identified in 2012.

The Arabian Peninsula is the main area to have been rocked by cases, with more than 90 per cent of them recorded in Saudi Arabia.

However, MERS has also been confirmed in Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Cases have been exported to countries outside of the Middle East, including the UK, Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The most recent was identified in January 2018, a Malaysian Umrah pilgrim, who had visited a camel farm while in Saudi Arabia.

Arabian camels are known to be a host of the virus, and are considered to be the most likely source of infection in sporadic human cases.

The WHO named MERS in its annual list of 10 killer viruses that pose the most urgent threat to humanity back in February.

Ebola and Zika, which both have caused brutal pandemics in the past four years, were also named amid fears they could strike again.

And for the first time ever, ‘Disease X’ – representing a pathogen currently unknown to scientists – was mentioned by the WHO.    

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