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Irishman being tested after travelling on same plane as US man with MERS virus

The man has been advised not to socialise or travel for the next few days.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

AN IRISH MAN was on the same flight as an American man who was diagnosed with the virus MERS, and is now undergoing tests to see if it was transferred to him.

The Irishman, Paddy Reilly, took the flight from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia to Heathrow on 23 April. He told TheJournal.ie that he was sitting behind the American man on this flight.

The American man was flying from Saudi Arabia to Chicago, via Heathrow with British Airways, and was subsequently hospitalised with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Indiana.

Reilly took an Aer Lingus flight from Heathrow to Ireland on 24 April, after his British Airways flight. He then spent two days here before his return to Saudi Arabia.

He has since been contacted by the HSE, who emailed him and then rang his Irish mobile and then Irish landline to tell him to get tested in case he is infected.

He has been advised not to socialise or travel for the next few days “just to be on the safe side”, he said.

Over 100 people have died from the MERS virus in Saudi Arabia.

Tests

Reilly has gone to the hospital in Saudi Arabia but said he has not been given a blood test yet. He is not showing any signs of the disease, but says there are three days left in the 14-day incubation period for MERS.

He said:

I have been to hospital here in Saudi Arabia and have had checks for symptoms but no blood tests which is concerning [...] not being local and Arabic speaking [I] can’t do much more.

He has emailed the HSE back asking should he insist on a blood test being done as he is showing no symptoms. “But with [it] still being in the 14 day incubation period I am a little concerned,” he said.

In the UK, Public Health England said that the risk of infection being passed to other passengers is “extremely low”, the Telegraph reported, but it had contacted passengers who were sitting near the man on the British Airways flight.

A spokesperson from the HSE said: “The Department of Public Health makes contact with any individual who is considered to have been at risk of exposure”.

MERS is a coronavirus similar to SARS. In December 2013, scientists found the small livestock barn in Qatar that was the location of a MERS outbreak that year.

It is believed the virus had spread from camels in the barn to humans.

A spokesperson from Aer Lingus declined to comment.

Read: Scientists find first definitive proof MERS disease infects camels>

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