The Foreign Office has issued an urgent warning after a severe illness was detected in people returning to the UK from trips abroad.

Three cases of meningococcal disease – a bacterial infection that can lead to meningitis and sepsis – have now been detected.

The disease has a high mortality rate, and requires immediate medical intervention and antibiotics, warns the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

A total of twelve cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) had been reported across France and the United States until May 17, with most linked to pilgrims returning from Umrah in Saudi Arabia.

The majority of these cases involve the particularly virulent meningococcus serogroup W, and those affected had not been vaccinated.

Highlighting the danger, the ECDC explained: “IMD is an acute severe bacterial infection, with high case fatality, presenting with meningitis and/or sepsis, often with a rapid progression, requiring medical support and prompt treatment with antibiotics. The highest incidence occurs in young children, adolescents and young adults.”

With several strains of the disease known, meningococcus serogroup W is notorious for its severity and higher death rates. However, the ECDC offers reassurance to vaccinated individuals, stating they are at minimal risk.

It highlighted: “For pilgrims visiting the Hajj and Umrah zones in KSA who are vaccinated with the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine, the likelihood of infection is low, as they are protected thanks to vaccine-induced immunity. For unvaccinated pilgrims visiting these sites, the likelihood of infection is moderate.”, reports the Manchester Evening News.

The ECDC also judged the risk of IMD to the general public in the EU as minimal due to the extremely small chance of exposure and potential infection. It is advised that people travelling to the Hajj and Umrah zones in KSA get the quadrivalent (ACWY) meningococcal vaccine at least 10 days before departure.

Medical professionals are being warned to watch for signs of meningitis in returning travellers, particularly if the individual has recently journeyed to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage. If there is suspicion of an infection, the person should be quarantined, and any close contacts pinpointed and monitored for at least 10 days from the last possible exposure.

Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis consist of sudden fever, headache, and stiff neck. Other indicators could include nausea, vomiting, heightened sensitivity to light, and confusion.

Children and infants may show different hints and symptoms, such as lack of activity, irritability, vomiting, or poor reflexes.

You May Also Like

35 scientifically-backed tricks to live longer and give your brain a boost, by DR MICHAEL MOSLEY

Dr Michael Mosley’s greatest skill – and his lasting legacy – was…

New E. coli alert: Lidl chicken 'riddled'  faecal bacteria, listeria and drug-resistant superbugs including MRSA

More than half of Lidl chicken is ‘riddled’ with potentially deadly drug-resistant ‘superbugs’,…

Michael Mosley's life-changing tips on how you can sleep more soundly and pep up your love life

The massive outpouring of public grief for Dr Michael Mosley has been…

Cheshire man, 66, left 'unable to walk' after catching E. coli from £4.99 wrap amid UK-wide outbreak

A man has claimed he was temporarily left unable to walk after…