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%.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/10/2013

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