Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is an illness caused by a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Most MERS patients developed severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died.
All cases are linked to the Arabian Peninsula
Health officials first reported the disease in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. Through retrospective (backward-looking) investigations, they later identified that the first known cases of MERS occurred in Jordan in April 2012. So far, all cases of MERS have been linked through travel to, or residence in, countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula. The largest known outbreak of MERS outside the Arabian Peninsula occurred in the Republic of Korea in 2015. The outbreak was associated with a traveler returning from the Arabian Peninsula.
People with MERS can spread it to others
MERS-CoV has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person.
MERS can affect anyone. MERS patients have ranged in age from younger than 1 to 99 years old.
CDC continues to closely monitor the MERS situation globally. We are working with partners to better understand the risks of this virus, including the source, how it spreads, and how to prevent infections. CDC recognizes the potential for MERS-CoV to spread further and cause more cases globally and in the U.S. We have provided information for travelers and are working with health departments, hospitals, and other partners to prepare for this.
Listen to a 4-minute podcast about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or download a fact sheet [2 pages].