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Division of Disease Control

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus (MERS-CoV). It can cause mild to severe illness, with death resulting in approximately 30% of patients.

Infection with MERS occurs primarily in Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Cases have also occurred in Israel, Europe, and rarely in the United States.

Please see the CDC MERS page for an updated list of countries.

Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of MERS?
Symptoms can include:
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea/Nausea
  • Cough
  • Pneumonia
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Kidney Failure

How does MERS spread?

We do not currently know all of the ways that MERS can be spread. However, some cases are spread from person to person through close contact, including caring for or living with a sick person. People with MERS have also infected others in healthcare settings, including hospitals.

Who is at risk of getting MERS?

There is no evidence of ongoing spread of MERS in the community, and there is very low risk for the general public in the US. However, individuals with recent travel (within 14 days) to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula, close contacts of ill travelers from the Arabian Peninsula, and close contacts of a confirmed or probable case are at highest risk. Transmission from sick patients to healthcare personnel has also been observed.

How is MERS diagnosed and treated?

MERS can be diagnosed through the laboratory testing of blood and respiratory samples. There is no treatment for MERS. However, symptoms can be managed with supportive care.

What should I do if I think I have MERS?

If you develop a fever and respiratory illness symptoms, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days of travel in countries in or around the Arabian Peninsula, or have had recent contact with an ill traveler from the Arabian Peninsula, you should contact a healthcare provider and mention your travel history and/or exposure.

How is MERS prevented?

People can protect themselves from MERS and other respiratory illnesses through:

  • Frequent hand washing with soap and water
  • Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoiding close contact, including kissing and sharing drinks or utensils, with ill persons
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, including doorknobs and toys

Is it safe to travel?

At this time, the CDC does not recommend that anyone change their travel plans. People planning to visit areas in or around the Arabian Peninsula should monitor their own health for symptoms of illness. Travelers should wash hands before and after touching animals, and avoid contact with sick animals, as well as consumption of raw or undercooked animal products (including milk). If you become ill during or after your travel, you should inform your healthcare provider of your recent travel history.

Is MERS in the United States?

In the US, MERS represents a very low risk to the general public. However, two imported cases of MERS have been reported in the US. Both cases were healthcare workers with recent travel from Saudi Arabia. These two cases are not linked, and no household members or close contacts of these cases have become ill. Both cases have fully recovered.

What is the PDPH doing to prepare?

As there is potential for MERS to spread globally and in the US, the PDPH has taken several steps to prepare:

  • Enhanced surveillance to more effectively identify potential cases
  • Created guidance materials and tools for healthcare providers and facilities
  • Collaborated with airport officials, CDC quarantine staff, and US Customs and Border Protection officers to ensure reporting of ill travelers
  • Provided up-to-date information regarding MERS to the general public and healthcare providers