England fans returning from Qatar risk spreading camel flu

Security guards patrol England's hotel on camels

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Discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012, MERS is thought to be ten times more deadly than COVID-19, but, so far, it has only impacted a small number of people. The World Health Agency has reported just 2,600 cases between April 2012 and October 2022 in 12 Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. The disease, thought to have originated in camels, is a low risk for England fans returning to the country.

The UK Health Security Agency (HSA) has asked clinicians to look out for people suffering from a fever and breathing difficulties.

According to the Sun, the HAS sent out a briefing note writing:  “Clinicians and public health teams should specifically be alert to the possibility of MERS in returning travellers from the World Cup. 

“The risk of infection to UK residents is very low but may be higher in those with exposure to specific risk factors within the region – such as to camels.”



Camel safaris are a tourist attraction in Qatar, which might put some travellers at risk. Symptoms include a dry cough and irritation in the upper throat. 

To date, just two cases of MERS have been reported in the UK, the last in 2013. However, due to the capacity for the virus to travel HAS warns: 

“It is therefore imperative that health professionals remain vigilant for clinical presentations compatible with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.” 

“The risk of infection with MERS-CoV to UK residents in the UK remains very low.

“The risk of infection with MERS-CoV to UK residents travelling to the Middle East is very low, but may be higher in those with exposure to specific risk factors within the region, such as camels (or camel products) or the local healthcare system.”

MERS is transmitted between animals and people, however, the exact route of transmission remains unclear.

The majority of outbreaks of the virus have been identified in healthcare settings, through human-to-human transmission.


There have been no confirmed cases of camel flu among returning England fans.

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