People told to wear masks as disease detected in UK

A woman wearing a face covering
-Credit: (Image: Peter Harbour - Yorkshire Live)

People are being warned to be vigilant after more cases of a potentially lethal disease were detected in people returning to the UK.

Travel Health Pro, which is backed by the Foreign Office, said that 14 cases of the lethal meningococcal disease have been detected in people returning from Saudi Arabia - including three cases in the UK.

As of June 21, 2024, five cases were also reported in the United States, with four in France, one in Norway, and one in the Netherlands. All cases were found in travellers or contacts of travellers returning from Umrah pilgrimage.

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Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) is a major cause of meningitis and septicaemia. The disease progresses rapidly, with around one in ten of those infected dying.

The bacteria invade the body and cause meningococcal infection, which is an acute severe bacterial infection. The most common symptoms include fever, headache, and a stiff neck, though some patients also experience confusion, nausea and vomiting, and light sensitivity.

Health bosses said that pilgrims and seasonal workers visiting Saudi Arabia for Hajj and Umrah are at an increased risk due to "a combination of overcrowding and close contact with people from countries with higher meningitis rates".

Measures people can take limit their risk of contracting the disease include the wearing of masks, washing hands with a soap before consuming any food, ensuring that food is thoroughly cooked and also using disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and ensuring its proper disposal.

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