Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory infection caused by a novel strain of coronavirus first identified in September 2012 and called MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV). MERS-CoV is genetically distinct from the coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak.
Update - 6 February 2014:
Since April 2012, 178 laboratory-confirmed of human infection MERS-CoV have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), including 76 deaths. Since 22 November 2013, 21 laboratory-confirmed cases, including seven deaths, were reported to WHO. The geographic distribution of these 21 cases is 14 cases, including four deaths, from Saudi Arabia; six cases, including two deaths, from UAE; and one fatal case from Oman.
All cases have a link to the Middle East. For those cases reported outside the Middle East, the link is either through recent travel to the region or exposure to a patient who acquired infection in the region.
The WHO MERS-CoV Research Group has published a comprehensive review on MERS-CoV in PLOS.
WHO has recently published a MERS-CoV summary and literature update.
WHO does not recommend the application of any travel restrictions to affected countries but have provided travel advice for people making pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia.
The NSW Health Hajj Travel Advice factsheet also has health information for pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj and Umrah.
Information for Health Professionals