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

  • Medical Author:

    Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP is a U.S. board-certified Infectious Disease subspecialist. Dr. Gompf received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, and a Medical Degree from the University of South Florida. Dr. Gompf completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida followed by subspecialty fellowship training there in Infectious Diseases under the directorship of Dr. John T. Sinnott, IV.

  • Medical Author: Lily N. Jones, DO
  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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.

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.
  • The largest outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula occurred in the Republic of Korea in 2015. It was linked to a traveler returning from the Arabian Peninsula.
  • MERS-CoV is a type of coronavirus, similar to the one that caused SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and 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 several cases of MERS-CoV in those who handle camels have been reported. Other livestock do not seem to be affected.
  • 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 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 higher at 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 have originated in the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding areas.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/22/2016

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