Singapore Airlines cabin crew get MERS vaccination

Written by Staff Writer at CNN Singapore, Emma Lee, Written by Emma Lee, CNN

Singapore Airlines will ask its cabin crew to be vaccinated against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus (MERS-CoV) by the end of this year.

MERS-CoV is a rare coronavirus that has no known cure. It causes shortness of breath, fever and coughing. More than 700 people worldwide have been infected with the virus since 2012. The most recent outbreak occurred in May this year in Saudi Arabia where about 40 percent of the infected people have died.

Experts warn that passengers traveling to the Middle East are at risk of infection — particularly if they are traveling with their family. MERS can also be transferred through respiratory secretions, including coughing and sneezing.

The airline, which describes its cabin crew as “piratical,” is keen to be in lock-step with stricter International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines. According to ICAO, all airlines must have a minimum of 5% of cabin crew with the MERS virus immunization, by the end of 2019. The airline said it would increase this percentage to 10% in January 2020.

For each cabin member, Singapore Airlines will organize a voluntary consultation with a doctor to decide whether to give the recommended dose of the vaccine and schedule the vaccinations.

“As a responsible global citizen, we are committed to screening and vaccinating our cabin crew,” said V.S.A. Ramesh, executive vice president of cabin products and engineering at Singapore Airlines, in a statement.

Courtesy Singapore Airlines

“On the ground, we will continue to support and monitor our globally-traveled crew, and to ensure that our staff pass through rigorous checks at their countries of destination.”

So far, the virus has caused only mild illness in most patients, despite causing fever and cough, according to the World Health Organization.

In 2016, German carrier Lufthansa was the first airline to announce its cabin crew members had been vaccinated against MERS-CoV — a change announced to strengthen the “flight-crew risk assessment.”

At present, there’s no specific treatment for MERS, though there are certain anti-virals approved by the World Health Organization that can help manage symptoms.

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