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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. There are many different types of coronaviruses, and they usually cause only mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness. MERS-CoV, however, is different from other coronaviruses previously found in humans.

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About Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

MERS is a viral respiratory illness, that emerged in emerged in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012. There is ongoing work to determine the nature of the virus and how it spreads. As of Spring 2015, there are also cases reported in South Korea.

The origin of the virus is thought to come from animals in the Arabian Peninsula. MERS-CoV has been found in camels from several Middle Eastern countries, but it is unclear if the camels are the true source of the virus.

Transmission of MERS

MERS-CoV is thought to spread from person to person by respiratory secretions, such as coughing, and through direct close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person.

Symptoms of MERS

Some infected people may not have any symptoms. Most, however develop severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some may have gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting.

MERS can be fatal, particularly in people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes; cancer; and chronic lung, heart, and kidney disease). People with with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk for getting MERS.

Prevention of MERS Transmission

Since there is no treatment or vaccine for MERS currently, the best approach is prevention. You can protect yourself against MERS and other respiratory infections by:

  • Washing hands frequently
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose, mouth with unwashed hands
  • Disinfecting touched surfaces frequently

Treatment

At this time there is no specific antiviral treatment available for MERS. Individuals with MERS can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, current treatment includes care to support vital organ functions.

Travel

At this time, CDC is not recommending that anyone’s travel plans be changed because of MERS. Travelers going to the areas where MERS is occurring should follow standard precautions which includes gloves gowns, and masks.