Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Infection (MERS-CoV Infection)

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Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) facts

  • MERS-CoV is a new novel coronavirus that caused severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) first identified in Saudi Arabia in September 2012.
  • MERS-CoV is a type of coronavirus, similar to the one that caused SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) or the common cold. MERS-CoV has not been previously identified in humans. However, like the SARS virus, MERS-CoV is most similar to coronaviruses found in bats.
  • The infection can be spread from person to person through respiratory secretions.
  • Infected people have symptoms of a flu-like illness followed by an atypical pneumonia, including fever, dry cough, and severe shortness of breath. Gastrointestinal symptoms may also occur.
  • Severely affected people experience respiratory failure and may need mechanical ventilation. Older people and those with underlying illnesses are at higher risk for severe disease.
  • To date, there is a total of 91 confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 46 deaths. MERS-CoV infection should be suspected in returned travelers from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries with a illness with symptoms compatible with MERS-CoV occurring within 10 days of traveling.
  • If there are grounds for suspicion, public-health authorities need to be alerted and will test respiratory secretions at CDC-designated laboratories.
  • Similar to SARS, there is no medication that is known to treat MERS-CoV. Treatment is supportive.
  • During the 2003 SARS outbreak, approximately 25% of people had severe respiratory failure and 10% died. In contrast, mortality in MERS is about 50%.

What is Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)?

MERS-CoV is a newly identified coronavirus that can cause severe acute respiratory infection in humans. The first case of MERS-CoV infection was identified in the United Kingdom in September 2012 in a patient with recent travel history to Saudi Arabia. No cases have been reported in the United States. The confirmed cases of MERS-CoV originated from the following countries: Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Outside of the Arabian Peninsula, there have been reported cases of MERS-CoV infection among patients who had not been to the Middle East but had been in close contact with or members of the same household of the infected patients. MERS-CoV infection should be suspected in travelers who've recently returned from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries with a compatible illness occurring within 10 days of traveling.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/10/2013

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Symptoms of MERS Virus Infection

A new aggressive pathogen has recently been identified; it's a coronavirus that causes symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath that may become severe or deadly. The disease is termed MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS-CoV). Researchers suggest the MERS virus originated in animals (camels) and, like other viruses, mutated to be able to infect humans.


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