FOOTBALL fans at the World Cup in Qatar have been warned over the threat from eight diseases, including the deadly MERS.
Experts backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) fear Middle East respiratory syndrome, known as MERS or “camel flu,” could spread during the current tournament in the Middle Eastern country.
MERS is a deadlier cousin of Covid and kills up to a third of everyone who becomes infected.
Disease experts included MERS and one of eight potential “infection risks” would could theoretically crop up while the World Cup is taking place.
Also on the list was Covid and Monkeypox, which were seen as the two most likely threats.
According to a paper written by three academics and published in the journal New Microbes and New Infections, the World Cup “unavoidably poses infectious disease risks”.
Professor Patricia Schlagenhauf, an epidemiologist from the WHO’s Collaborating Centre for Travellers’ Health, and team said this applied to Qatar as well as neighbouring countries.
MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia, which borders Qatar, a decade ago.
The experts suggested illnesses could also be exported to other countries, such as Britain, due to the volume of fans who have travelled to Qatar to watch the footballing spectacle.
An estimated 5,000 England and Wales fans are thought to be heading to the Arab state to watch the group stages of the competition.
In total, around 1.2million supporters are expected to travel to Qatar for the tournament.
Only five cases of MERS have been recorded in Britain, with the most recent case being in August 2018 when a traveller returned from the Middle East.
Health experts say that human-to-human transmission is possible.
Camels are believed to be the natural host of the virus, which comes from the same family as the virus behind the Covid pandemic.
The eight diseases fans risk catching at the World Cup
4. Vector-borne diseases (cutaneous leishmaniasis, malaria, dengue, rabies)
6. Hepatitis A
7. Hepatitis B
8. Travellers’ diarrhoea
The symptoms of MERS you need to be aware of
Middle East respiratory syndrome is a very rare but severe respiratory illness, according to the NHS.
It can start with a fever and cough, which can develop into pneumonia and breathing difficulties.
- difficulty breathing
- diarrhoea and vomiting
Travellers to the region are advised to avoid touching the mammals.
People should also avoid drinking camel milk or urine or eat camel meat that has not been properly cooked, infectious disease scientists behind the latest warning said.
Anyone returning to Britain with any MERS symptoms, which are similar to those of a cold or flu, are told to get medical advice and share their travel history, so infection control and testing can be carried out.
There is no specific treatment for the illness and doctors work to ease a patient’s symptoms.
Around 35 per cent of those who get MERS die as a result.
Dr Jaffar Al-Tawfiq, an infectious disease consultant at Saudi Arabia’s Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare, and Dr Philippe Gautret, from Aix Marseille University in France, were the other two researchers.