Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

Cause: MERS-CoV is a new coronavirus identified in June 2012 that causes severe respiratory illnesses. As of July 2017, 2,040 laboratory confirmed cases have been reported to the World Health Organization from 27 countries, with most cases occurring in the Saudi Arabia (82%). Although most coronaviruses cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses, coronaviruses can cause severe illness as shown by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus in 2003 and now SARS.

Illness and treatment: Most diagnosed cases of MERS have had serious acute respiratory illness with fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. Some persons with MERS have had pneumonia or kidney failure. Most laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV infections have occurred in people with chronic medical conditions or immunosuppression. According to WHO, approximately 20% of laboratory confirmed cases have had asymptomatic or mild illness.

There is no specific treatment, just supportive hospital care. Recent information about MERS-CoV is available from the CDC.

Sources: Coronaviruses can infect animals. The source of MERS-CoV is thought to be from bats. Most cases in the community have occurred in persons with close contact with camels or drinking camel milk. MERS can be spread from one person to another. Most clusters of MERS have occurred from spread in hospitals.

Prevention: The best way to avoid getting or spreading any respiratory virus is to wash your hands, cover your cough, and stay home if you're sick with a respiratory infection. Check the CDC website for travel alerts. Healthcare facilities should follow appropriate infection control measures.

Recent Washington trends: The first MERS case reported in the United States was in Indiana in May 2014. No cases of MERS have been reported in Washington State.

Purpose of Reporting and Surveillance

  • To identify infections due to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
  • To prevent the spread of MERS-CoV.

Legal Reporting Requirements

  • Healthcare providers: immediately notifiable to local health jurisdiction
  • Healthcare facilities: immediately notifiable to local health jurisdiction
  • Laboratories: immediately notifiable to local health jurisdiction; specimen submission required
  • Local health jurisdictions: immediately notifiable to Washington State Department of Health Office of Communicable Disease Epidemiology

MERS-CoV infection is reportable as a Rare Disease of Public Health Significance.