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

Medical Author:
Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

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. The infection appears to be the result of spread of the virus from camels to humans, resulting in limited person-to-person spread but not sustained transmission in humans.
  • 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. Like the SARS virus, MERS-CoV is most similar to coronaviruses found in bats. It has been detected in camels, and regular handling of these animals may pose a major risk of human transmissions. It has not been detected in other livestock, but several cases of MERS-CoV in those who handle camels have been reported.
  • The infection can be spread from person to person through respiratory secretions. It may be transmitted from camels to humans. Those who handle camels are at higher risk of MERS-CoV infection than people who do not have regular close contacts with camels.
  • Infected people have symptoms of a flu-like illness followed by
  • 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.
  • In 2014, MERS-CoV was diagnosed in the U.S. in two individuals who were not linked to each other. Both were travelers who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, and both were health-care workers. Other countries, outside of the Arabian peninsula and surrounding countries, have detected MERS-CoV only in travelers from these areas.
  • MERS-CoV infection should be suspected in travelers from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries with an 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.
  • 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 coronavirus that can cause severe acute respiratory infection in humans. Confirmed cases of MERS-CoV originated in the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding areas.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/13/2015

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

MERS - Symptoms Question: What symptoms did you experience with your MERS infection?
MERS - Risk Factors Question: Did you have any MERS risk factors prior to infection?

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.