The search is on between US and UK authorities to find passengers who travelled on the same flight from London to Chicago with a man diagnosed with a potentially deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like virus.
The traveler, identified to be a US citizen, had contracted Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-Cov) on April 27 after flying to the US from Saudi Arabia, where he was employed as a healthcare worker.
According to reports, the man flew a British Airways flight from Riyadh to Heathrow on April 24, and then transferred to Chicago. He was hospitalized on April 27 in Indiana for fever, cough and shortness of breath, but is now currently in a good condition. The United States Center for Disease Control in Indiana, this is the first case of MERS-Cov in the US.
According to Reuters, health officials at Public Health England (PHE), has contacted UK passengers on BA Flight 262 who were sitting near the affected passenger, but stressed the risk of infection was “extremely low.” Britons on the flight who become unwell or experience respiratory problems have been urged to contact NHS 111.
UK health officials are said to be working with US authorities to locate any UK passengers on the onward flight – American Airlines Flight 99 from London to Chicago.
Since mid-March, 111 people have tested positive in the Jeddah area of Saudi Arabia, World Health Organization figures show – the biggest increase in the MERS-Cov outbreak since it was detected in April 2012.
According to the US Center for Disease Control, 401 MERS-Cov cases have been confirmed in 12 countries including 93 deaths – three from the UK. Globally, infections have been reported in France, Germany, Italy and Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Malaysia, the Philippines and Tunisia.
MERS-Cov has been found in camels, and health authorities have yet to identify how it is spread to humans. It belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which caused a panic in 2003 after it claimed the lives of 800 people.