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.
So far, all the cases have been linked to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. No cases have been identified in Australia. This virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact but to date there has been no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission in communities.
MERS coronavirus infection is a notifiable disease in NSW.
Update - 6 June 2014
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that as of 4 June, 681 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including 204 related deaths have been reported globally.
Based on the current situation and available information, WHO has encouraged all Member States to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.
As it is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because some have mild or unusual symptoms, it is important that healthcare workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices all the time.
The Australian Department of Health has issued updated advice to the community, to General Practitioners, and to other clinicians, laboratory and public health personnel, available at their MERS-CoV website.
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