High prevalence of common respiratory viruses and no evidence of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus in Hajj pilgrims returning to Ghana, 2013

objective The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) emerged in 2012 on the Arabian Peninsula and has caused severe respiratory disease with more than 800 laboratory confirmed cases. The return of infected pilgrims to their home countries with a putative spread of MERS-CoV necessitates further surveillance. methods A cross sectional study of 839 adult African Hajj pilgrims returning to Accra in Ghana, West Africa, was conducted in 2013 to assess the prevalence of respiratory symptoms as well as of MERS-CoV, human rhinovirus (HRV), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza A virus (FLU A) infection. results Six hundred and fifty-one (77.6%) pilgrims had respiratory symptoms. Tests were positive for at least one of the viruses other than MERS-CoV in 179 (21.3%) of all pilgrims, with 22.4% detection in symptomatic vs. 17.6% detection in asymptomatic pilgrims. No MERS-CoV was detected, although common respiratory viruses were prevalent, with positive findings for HRV in 141 individuals (16.8%), RSV in 43 individuals (5.1%) and FLU A in 11 individuals (1.3%). Results were positive for more than one virus in 16 (1.9%) individuals, including 14 (1.7%) RSV/HRV co infections and 2 (0.2%) FLU A/HRV co-infections. A total 146 (22.4%) of the symptomatic returnees tested positive for at least one respiratory virus compared with 33 (17.6%) of the asymptomatic pilgrims who had at least one detectable virus in their sample. conclusions The prevalence of viral respiratory infections among Hajj pilgrims in both symptomatic and asymptomatic subjects was high. Although it is reassuring that MERS-CoV was not detected in the tested population, there is a need for active surveillance of Hajj pilgrims.
This article is published by Tropical Medicine and International Health and is also available at https://doi.org/10.1111/tmi.12482
volume 20 no 6 pp 807–812 june 2015