Key facts

  • MERS is a severe respiratory disease caused by MERS-coronavirus (MERS‐CoV), a new virus first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
  • Typical MERS symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  • Pneumonia is common but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, have also been reported.
  • Travellers to the Middle East have acquired the infection after exposure to infected animals, animal products or human cases (such as in a health care setting).
MERS-CoV fact sheet

Hospital outbreaks

  • MERS-CoV does not seem to pass easily from person to person but transmission is more likely in certain settings, such as occurs when providing unprotected care to a patient.
  • Hospitals outbreaks of MERS-CoV are well known, making the strict and timely application of appropriate infection prevention and control measures vital.

Global update

  • At the end of August 2018, a total of 2249 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including 798 associated deaths (case–fatality rate: 35.5%) were reported globally; 83% of these cases were reported from Saudi Arabia.
  • Additional cases of MERS-CoV infection are expected to be reported from the Middle East and sporadic cases will continue to be exported from there to other countries by travellers.
  • To date, no cases have been associated with Hajj.
WHO MERS-CoV updates

Travel advice

Risk from camels

  • Camels in the Middle East are suspected to be the primary source of infection for humans.
  • Travellers in the Middle East should:
    • avoid all contact with camels 
    • not drink raw camel milk or camel urine
    • not eat camel meat unless it has been properly cooked.
Page Updated: Wednesday 3 October 2018