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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS CoV) 

Introduction

MERS is found mainly in countries in the Middle East. These countries include Saudi Arabia Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The risk to travellers to the Middle East is very low.

Recommendations

To protect yourself from catching MERS when you travel you should:

  • avoid drinking raw camel milk or urine, or eating undercooked camel meat or camel products
  • wash your hands regularly, especially after contact with ill people or contact with animals
  • avoid close contact with live farm or wild animals, including camels
  • avoid close contact with people suffering from chest infections

If you become unwell and develop symptoms of MERS you must:

  • get medical attention
  • tell the medical person about your travel history before they see you
  • practice respiratory hygiene to prevent you spreading the infection to others

There is no vaccine available to protect you against MERS.

Overview of the Disease

MERS is an illness caused by a virus called MERS-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).  It was discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

Most infections have occurred after contact with dromedary camels or camel produce. It has also occurred after close contact with a person infected with MERS-CoV in a hospital or family home. However it is still not fully known exactly how the infection spreads.

Most cases have occurred in Saudi Arabia but MERS has also been reported in other Middle Eastern countries.

The Illness

Not everyone infected with MERS-CoV will become unwell and develop an illness.  For some people that are infected, MERS can be a severe, life threatening illness, but others might just have a mild flu-like illness. 

People who have health conditions like diabetes, kidney failure or lung disease or have a weakened immune system are more likely to have a severe infection.

The most common symptoms are:

  • fever
  • cough
  • breathing difficulties or being short of breath

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for MERS.  Some people will need to be admitted to hospital and may need to be in intensive care.

Further Information

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