MERS - Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

What is MERS?
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). All reported cases have been linked to countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula. Most infected people either live in the Arabian Peninsula or recently traveled from the Arabian Peninsula before they became ill. A few people became infected with MERS-CoV after having close contact with an infected person who had recently traveled from the Arabian Peninsula.

What are the symptoms?
  • shortness of breath leading to severe acute respiratory illness
  • fever
  • cough
Some reported cases also had diarrhea and nausea/vomiting. Many cases of MERS will develop into more serious complications including pneumonia and kidney failure. About 3-4 out of every 10 people reported with MERS have died.

How is it spread?
MERS is spread after close contact with an infected person's respiratory secretions, usually from coughing.

MERS in the U.S.

There is very low risk to the general public in the United States. Only two patients in the U.S. have ever tested positive for MERS-CoV infection—both in May 2014. Nationwide surveillance is ongoing.
Protect from MERS is the same as for any respiratory illness:
  • Appropriate hand washing for adults and children. Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover nose and mouth with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, or sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils, with people who are sick.
  • Frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
There is no specific treatment recommended for MERS-CoV infection other than to seek medical care to help relieve symptoms.

Appropriate Hand Washing