Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a potentially severe illness caused by a coronavirus (CoV). First reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, cases have since been reported from over 25 countries. Only two people in the United States have tested positive for MERS-CoV, both in 2014. Both cases of MERS Co-V in the US occurred in persons who traveled in or near the Arabian Peninsula.
The virus is spread through close contact with an ill person. Most people who have MERS-CoV infection develop severe acute respiratory illness that includes fever, cough, and shortness of breath within 14 days after contact with an ill person. Some persons also experience diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, or kidney failure. The infection is potentially fatal, and because MERS-CoV is caused by a virus, antibiotics do not help. Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent MERS-CoV. Milder cases can be treated at home while more severe cases require hospitalization.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula with MERS cases on their website. Current guidance about travel to the Arabian Peninsula is also available on the CDC website.
If you are or have recently been traveling in an area with potential MERS-CoV transmission you can help protect yourself and others from infection by taking the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and allow hands to air-dry. Help young children do the same.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away immediately.
- Don’t share eating utensils, cups, or come into close contact, such as kissing or touching, with someone who is sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs.
If you are in or near the Arabian Peninsula and become sick, or become sick within 14 days of leaving the area, use the above precautions, plus:
- Stay home except to go to the doctor or hospital.
- Separate yourself from other people in your home.
- Seek medical care.
- Before visiting the doctor or hospital, call ahead and tell your provider about your illness and recent travel.
For the most up-to-date information about MERS-CoV, visit the CDC website. Information includes: