(Bloomberg) — A deadly respiratory virus from the Middle East has traveled to Southeast Asia.
The coronavirus that causes the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus killed a Malaysian man who visited Saudi Arabia and also infected a Filipino health care worker who was returning from Abu Dhabi.
The Filipino man was among a group of four health-care workers in Abu Dhabi who came into contact with a patient who died of the disease on April 10, the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) said.
“WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions,” the United Nations agency said on its website yesterday, adding that countries should continue surveillance and review any unusual patterns.
There have been 243 confirmed MERS infections and 93 deaths since the virus emerged in Saudi Arabia in September 2012, according to the WHO.
A 54-year-old Malaysian man traveled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with a group of 18 pilgrims from March 15-28, and sought treatment in a private clinic in Johor, a southern Malaysian state near Singapore, after falling sick on April 4, according to the WHO statement.
The man, who died April 13, visited a camel farm and drank camel milk during the trip, it said.
“Travelers who become infected can return home while still in the incubation period and become sick after they arrive home,” David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said today by e-mail. “This is how disease spreads around the world, both every day and at holidays.”
The Saudi health ministry sent mobile-phone text messages earlier this week asking the country’s 30 million residents to check its website, call a free hotline and follow its official Twitter account for updates on the coronavirus.
The virus doesn’t spread easily between people, and no cases have been observed related to crowds, in schools or at football stadiums, the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a ministry official.
The coronavirus was detected in three-quarters of samples taken from camels across Saudi Arabia, showing it’s widespread in the country and suggesting a way to control transmission, a study published in February in the microbiology journal mBio found.