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

Updated: June 13, 2018


Original publication date: February 9, 2013.

What is MERS-CoV?

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus. It was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Coronaviruses can cause a range of diseases, from the common cold, to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Symptoms of MERS-CoV include fever, cough and shortness of breath and sometimes more severe conditions like acute pneumonia. Many also report symptoms such as diarrhea. Some cases can result in death.

The current understanding of MERS-CoV is that the virus is spread to humans from direct or indirect contact with infected camels. Transmission from person to person can occur 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.

Where is MERS-CoV a concern?

Since 2012, more than 2200 cases of infection with MERS-CoV have been reported including at least 790 deaths. The following countries in the Middle East have reported cases of MERS-CoV: Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The majority of cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia.

Several other countries have also reported cases in individuals who have travelled to the Middle East: Algeria, Austria, China (including Hong Kong), Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

For the latest updates on MERS-CoV, including the total number of cases and deaths, visit the World Health Organization's website.

How can you protect yourself from MERS-CoV?

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

Stay up-to-date with your routine vaccines and adult boosters and recommended travel vaccinations.

Eat and drink safely.

Avoid close contact with animals, especially camels.

Protect yourself and others from the spread of germs and flu-like illness.

Monitor your health

See your health care provider, 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 your health care provider about your symptoms. Tell them your full travel history. This includes:

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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