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Foreign Office issues warning after Brits return from holiday with a disease that can kill 1 in 10

Foreign Office issues warning after Brits return from holiday with a disease that can kill 1 in 10

Three cases of the potentially-fatal illness have been recorded in the UK in a matter of weeks

The UK Foreign Office has issued an unnerving new holiday warning after a batch of Brits recently returned home from trips abroad having contracted a potentially lethal disease.

A terrifying total of 14 US holiday-makers have been recorded as having been diagnosed with the invasive condition since returning home from areas of the Middle East, according to statistics released by the Foreign Office-supported Travel Health Pro website.

France have also documented four cases, Norway and the Netherlands one each, and the UK now has a total of three instances.

Three cases of the disease has now been reported in the UK (Kinga Krzeminska/Getty)
Three cases of the disease has now been reported in the UK (Kinga Krzeminska/Getty)

What is the disease?

The illness in question is known as meningococcal disease, describing an infection caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis.

According to leading global health services, the invasive disease is extremely serious, and can prove deadly to patients if not treated immediately.

That's because the infection can subsequently result in the patient developing either meningitis and septicaemia, both of which themselves can prove fatal.

In cases of meningococcal meningitis, for example, the bacteria infects the lining of both the brain and spinal cord, resulting in swelling.

And when it comes to septicaemia, meningococcal bloodstream infection occurs when bacteria enters the blood and damages the walls of the blood vessels, resulting in bleeding within both the skin and organs.

It is understood that 1 in 10 people every year can die as a result of meningococcal disease due to its rapid progression.

The disease has returned to the UK from Saudi Arabia. (Omar Chatriwala/Getty)
The disease has returned to the UK from Saudi Arabia. (Omar Chatriwala/Getty)

Where is it coming from?

All cases documented across Europe and the States so far determine that diagnosed travellers had returned to their home-country from Saudi Arabia.

According to The Independent, patients had also recently undertaken the Hajj pilgrimage, while the UK Government issued a reminder to those also going on Umrah pilgrimage, which is the Islamic trek to Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims, and is located in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia.

The Independent also reports that, according to The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the chance of European pilgrims being infected was 'considered to be low' because of Saudi Arabia's vaccination requirements and plans to 'address the management of health hazards'.

How does it spread?

Meningococcal bacteria is commonly spread by individuals who are sharing respiratory and throat secretions, like saliva or spit.

It is understood to take either close or lengthy contact with infected person for the bacteria to spread by, for example, kissing or living together.

What are the symptoms?

In cases of meningococcal meningitis, there are a number of most commonly recognised symptoms that patients travelling to and returning from the Middle East should look out for:

  • A fever
  • A headache
  • Neck stiffness
  • Altered mental status
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
Recent cases have been linked with the pilgrimage to Mecca. (Jasmin Merdan/Getty)
Recent cases have been linked with the pilgrimage to Mecca. (Jasmin Merdan/Getty)

Meanwhile, in regards to meningococcal sepsis, some of the symptoms are very similar, specifically fever.

The central sign of the infection, however, is a petechial or purpuric rash which often comes with septic shock, disseminated intravascular coagulation and multiple organ failure.

Advice on prevention:

Those planning on embarking on the pilgrimage are being advised by the UK Ministry of Health to take extra precaution, including:

  • Wearing face-masks in crowded areas
  • Frequently hand washing with soap and water or disinfectant (particularly after coughing, sneezing, using the toilet, before handling food, and after touching animals)
  • Using disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and disposing of them properly
  • Avoiding contact with sick individuals and not sharing personal items
  • Steering clear of camels in farms, markets, or barns
  • Refraining from consuming unpasteurised milk or raw meat or animal products that haven't been thoroughly cooked, as well as taking measures to prevent insect bites.
Featured Image Credit: Westend61/Getty Images/Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

Topics: Health, UK News, Travel, Holiday

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