Have you heard about the new SARS-like virus that has been circulating in the Middle East and Europe? MERS stands for "Middle East Respiratory Syndrome". It is a variant of a coronavirus (you may also see it called MERS-CoV) and causes symptoms similar to the SARS virus that was seen in Asia in 2003. This new MERS virus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
Since then, a total of 61 cases have been identified in 8 countries. Of the 61 people that have been infected, 34 have died. Cases have been found in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Italy, United Kingdom (UK) and France. However, the cases in Europe have been linked to people that traveled to the Middle East. So far, no cases have been found in the United States.
Update 7/3/13: A total of 77 cases have now been confirmed, with 42 deaths.
Symptoms of MERS include:
- Severe Respiratory Illness
- Shortness of Breath
At this time, the CDC and WHO have not made any travel health warnings about traveling to the Middle East or surrounding countries. However, if you have recently traveled to an area with known cases of MERS and you develop a respiratory illness, you should contact your health care professional and tell them about your travels.
For more information about MERS and to see what the CDC is doing about the virus, see the CDC MERS Fact Sheet.