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 October 2022, 2,600 laboratory-confirmed cases (including 935 associated deaths) have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), with most cases occuring in Saudi Arabia (84%). 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 MERS and SARS-CoV-2.

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 10-30% 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 with camels as reservoir. 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 in which infection prevention was inadequate.

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

  • Health care providers and Health care facilities: immediately notifiable to local health jurisdiction
  • Laboratories: immediately notifiable to local health jurisdiction; submission on request – presumptive positive isolate or if no isolate specimen associated with positive result, within 2 business days
  • Local health jurisdictions: immediately notifiable to Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Office of Communicable Disease Epidemiology (CDE)