Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

What is MERS?

MERS, which stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome, is a type of virus called a coronavirus (MERS-CoV). It is thought to be transmitted from camels to people by way of the nasal droplets, urine, milk and flesh of the camel. Human-to-human transmission is unlikely, unless you work in a health care environment in close proximity to (within six feet) an infected person for a long period of time without protective gear, such as a mask to cover your mouth. Person-to-person transmission can also happen if you have lived with or cared for an infected person for an extended period of time.

Who is at risk for MERS?

People at higher risk for MERS are those traveling to Saudi Arabia or any of the countries around the Arab Peninsula, which includes:

  • Bahrain
  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • The West Bank and Gaza
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Yemen

And who may have contact with camels, or will be spending time with someone who has been infected. Travelers to the Middle East are advised to take precautions when visiting markets or farms, and to avoid contact with camels or camel by-products (milk, urine, meat). Someone who has returned from the Middle East and has been infected can also put others around him or her at higher risk.

Symptoms of MERS

Again, person-to-person transmission is unlikely, but you should be aware of possible symptoms, such as:

You may not have MERS symptoms for up to two weeks after traveling or close contact with someone who's been infected. If you do have symptoms, however, or you think you may have been exposed, be sure to talk to your doctor right away. MERS can be fatal and there is no vaccine or antiviral medication available to treat it. If MERS is suspected, your doctor can help monitor your condition and provide treatment options.


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