Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, is a new virus that has been a cause of concern on the media lately. MERS is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERs-CoV). The first occurrence of MERS began in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Most cases of confirmed MERS infection in the Arabian Peninsula developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About 30% of these cases resulted in death. The virus has spread from infected persons to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person.
Outside of the Arabian Peninsula, there are reports of travel-associated infections in 10 countries around the world, including the U.S. Two cases of MERS had been identified in the U.S. in early May 2014. Both cases involved healthcare workers from Saudi Arabia who recently returned to the U.S. Both patients have recovered and have been discharged from the hospital. A third case which was earlier reported positive by the CDC, has since been determined a false negative case.
Currently, MERS represents a very low risk to the general public in the United States, but the CDC recommends that you take precautions to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and assist young children in doing the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing utensils, with sick people.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys, phones, and doorknobs.
If you have recently traveled to countries in the Arabian Peninsula and have developed fever, cough or other respiratory illness symptoms, or if you have been in close contact with a traveler who has developed acute respiratory symptoms, we recommend that you receive an evaluation by a health care provider and that you take extra precautions to prevent the spread of germs.
More information about MERS can be found at: