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Increase in the number of cases caused by new coronavirus (MERS CoV) on the Arabian Peninsula

02 May 2014

The Danish Health and Medicines Authority advises Danish travellers to the Arabian Peninsula and healthcare professionals in Denmark to pay special attention to disease caused by the new coronavirus (MERS CoV). No instances have been reported in Denmark.

During the past weeks, an increasing number of cases of new coronavirus infection among healthcare professionals have been reported in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Consequently, the Danish Health and Medicines Authority advises Danish travellers to the Arabian Peninsula to take the below general precautions in order to reduce the risk of infecting other people.

Danish healthcare professionals should be aware that patients, who have visited the Arabian Peninsula prior to the onset of disease, may be infected by the new coronavirus, and any case of suspected infection should be handled according to the applicable guidelines of the Danish Health and Medicines Authority.

The mode of transmission remains unknown. Camels and dromedaries are suspected carriers of the new coronavirus and could be part of the chain of infection. Instances of human-to-human infection have also been reported.

WHO and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) monitor the situation, and the Danish Health and Medicines Authority will follow the development.

Precautions for travellers to the Arabian Peninsula and neighbouring countries

To reduce infection and disease, travellers are encouraged to follow this general travel advice:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Maintain good food hygiene (make sure that meat is thoroughly cooked and avoid drinking unpasteurized milk – specially from camels and dromedaries)
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with animals, especially camels and dromedaries

Precautions in case of disease for travellers who have visited the Arabian Peninsula and neighbouring countries

People who have travelled to the affected areas and who develop a significant acute respiratory illness or other serious disease during the two weeks after their return should contact their doctor and inform him or her of the travel.

Guidance to doctors and other healthcare professionals

The purpose of raising awareness of the disease among healthcare professionals is primarily:

  • to identify any cases of the infection in Denmark
  • to prevent dissemination in Denmark, not least in hospitals

Disease caused by new coronavirus is characterised by severe respiratory disorder. The first symptom of a patient in France was diarrhoea, but an X-ray showed that the patient had pneumonia.

Patients with a weakened immune system and suffering from chronic diseases seem to be particularly susceptible.

Patients suspected of having a new coronavirus infection must be isolated in an infectious diseases department and any suspected cases must be reported by phone to the DHMA public health medical officers. 

Dissemination and characteristics of patients with new coronavirus

During the past weeks, an increasing number of cases of new coronavirus infection among healthcare professionals have been reported in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The majority of the patients with new coronavirus are from Saudi Arabia. But patients have also been reported in other countries on the Arabian Peninsula (the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait) and in Jordan.

Five European countries have reported cases of infection. All of these cases can be traced to the Arabian Peninsula. In addition, cases have been reported in Asia and North Africa. Just like the European patients, these cases can also be traced to the Arabian Peninsula. 

No instances have been reported in Denmark. 

The majority of the patients suffer from underlying chronic diseases. The patients are mainly middle-aged men, a few of them are women, but no children. The mortality rate among the internationally reported patients has been around 35%.