Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski-Kelner

The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is caused by a virus. It is not yet clear how the infection exactly takes place, but contact with dromedaries or products derived from dromedaries, such as milk and meat, play an important role. Infection is also possible through inhalation of droplets of an infected person. 

The virus usually causes no symptoms or only mild symptoms of a cold. However, sometimes a severe pneumonia with fever, coughing and shortness of breath will develop two to fourteen days after infection. This is more common in the elderly and people with a chronic condition, such as diabetes or immune disorders.   

Risk areas

Most cases to date have been described in Saudi Arabia, but reports have also been received from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran, Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and Qatar.

Prevention

Apply the general measures to prevent infections, especially:

Basic hygiene

Wash or disinfect your hands regularly.

Avoid dromedaries and their products

Avoid contact with dromedary camels and their waste products.

Do not eat or drink raw products coming from dromedary camels, for example dromedary milk.

Avoid sick people

Infection is also possible through contact with an infected person.

People with increased risk

Do you have a chronic illness, are you pregnant or over the age of 65 years, or are you travelling with a child younger than 12 years? Consult your doctor to discuss whether it is sensible to travel to a country where MERS is present.

Vaccination

There is no vaccine available.

In case of symptoms

Seek medical advice if you suffer any symptoms. Seek urgent medical advice if you have a cough or other breathing problems within two weeks after returning from a country where MERS occurs. Contact a hospital with an infectious diseases department as quickly as possible. They will be able to make the correct diagnosis and administer the right type of care.

In order to avoid infecting other people, you should keep your distance from other people. Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when sneezing or coughing, or use your sleeve (not your hand). Throw the tissues in a rubbish bin with a lid and wash your hands.

Avoid places where lots of people gather - such as a waiting room - and ask to be placed in a separate room immediately.

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