US, UK authorities tracking co-passengers of US health worker with MERS virus

Health authorities in the US and the UK are trying to trace the co-passengers of a man with MERS virus who travelled on a London-to-Chicago flight.

The American, who took ill after he flew to the US from Saudi Arabia where he was a healthcare worker, has Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (Mers-Cov).

He had flown on a British Airways flight from Riyadh to Heathrow on 24 April, before transferring to Chicago.

The man took ill on 27 April and had to be admitted to a hospital in Indiana with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. The present condition of the man is said to be good.

Public Health England (PHE) had contacted UK passengers on BA Flight 262 who were sitting near the affected passenger, but stressed that the infection risk was "extremely low".

Meanwhile, UK citizens on the flight who take ill or experience respiratory trouble have been urged to contact NHS 111.

PHE was also working with US authorities to trace any UK passengers on the onward flight - American Airlines Flight 99 from London to Chicago.

This came as the first diagnosis confirmation of Mers-Cov by the United States Centre for Disease Control in Indiana.

Sky News quoted Dr Thomas Briese, associate director of Columbia University's Centre for Infection and Immunity, as saying the case "does not mean that any epidemic is on the horizon or that it will spread".

Meanwhile, two UK passengers had already been tracked down by health chiefs over fears they could have contracted the deadly virus.

The announcement was made by PHE after it emerged two passengers had sat next to the American man, according to the Telegraph.

MERS, which is similar to SARS, had taken a toll of 107 lives so far, with 345 confirmed cases worldwide. Around 140 of these had been reported since the beginning of last month.

Human-to-human transmission of the virus is 'extremely rare', Mailonline reported quoting Professor Nick Phin, head of respiratory diseases for Public Health England.

The chances of passengers contracting the virus were very low, but that investigations, particularly into any passengers who continued on the second flight to America, are still continuing.