Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), formerly called "novel coronavirus (nCoV)," was identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. Most people who got infected with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of them died. A small number of the reported cases had a mild respiratory illness. Investigators are trying to figure out the source of MERS-CoV and how it spreads. There are no reported cases in the United States.
This virus is different from any other coronavirus previously found in people. It is also different from the coronavirus that caused SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003. However, like the SARS virus, MERS-CoV is most similar to coronaviruses found in bats.
What Are Coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. They are common viruses that most people get in their lifetime. These viruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses.
Coronaviruses may also infect animals. Most of these coronaviruses usually infect only one animal species or, at most, a small number of closely related species. However, SARS coronavirus can infect people and animals, including monkeys, Himalayan palm civets, raccoon dogs, cats, dogs, and rodents.
Global Partners Working to Understand MERS
The World Health Organization (WHO), CDC, and other partners are working to better understand the possible risks from MERS-CoV to the public's health. Learn about what CDC is doing about MERS. Also, read: Update: Severe Respiratory Illness Associated with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)—Worldwide, 2012-2013.
CDC Does Not Recommend Anyone Change Travel Plans
CDC does not recommend that anyone change their travel plans because of MERS. The current CDC travel notice is a Watch (Level 1) which advises travelers to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula to follow standard precautions, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with people who are ill.
For more information about the MERS situation and tips for traveling abroad, see CDC's travel notice: A Novel Coronavirus Called "MERS-CoV" in the Arabian Peninsula.
- CDC – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
- Coronavirus infections, WHO
Image source: Cynthia Goldsmith/Maureen Metcalfe/Azaibi Tamin
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