Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia

Updated: September 03, 2019


• Current situation has been updated.

Original publication date: February 9, 2013.

Current situation

Since Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) was first identified in 2012, the majority of cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia.

MERS is rare, but it can cause serious illness and even death. There have not been any reported cases of MERS in Canada, however, other countries have reported cases of MERS in travellers returning from the Middle East.

For the latest updates on MERS, including the total number of cases and deaths, please visit the website for the World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office.


About MERS

MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS-CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia.

Coronaviruses can cause a range of diseases, from the common cold, to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Some people who have been infected with MERS-CoV show no symptoms.

In other cases, people who are infected get sick very quickly. They may experience mild flu-like or more severe pneumonia-like symptoms. Common symptoms include:

Other symptoms may include:

Some cases can result in death.

The current understanding of the MERS-CoV is that it entered the human population through direct or indirect contact with infected camels or camel-related products, such as raw camel milk.

MERS-CoV can spread from person to person when there is close contact, such as caring for an infected person without appropriate infection prevention and control equipment.

Your risk of severe disease may be higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for:

 There is currently no vaccine to protect against MERS-CoV.


Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel.

Eat and drink safely.

Avoid close contact with animals, especially camels.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick and coughing.

Delay travel or stay home if you are sick with flu-like symptoms:

Wash your hands as often as possible:

Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:

Monitor your health

See a health care professional if you develop flu-like symptoms within 14 days after your return to Canada from a country in the Middle East or another country with a MERS outbreak.

Call ahead and tell them:

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.

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