Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Press Release: 2015-050

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

For Immediate Release

June 4, 2015; 5:00pm

DPHSS Release No. 2015-050

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

On June 2, 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) notified the Pacific Islands that South Korea reported their first laboratory-confirmed case of MERS on May 20, 2015.  This patient had a travel history to the Arabian Peninsula.

As of June 4, 2015, the South Korean Ministry of Health had identified an additional 34 cases.  Two of these cases were family members of the first case and the other 32 were all infected in two hospitals where the first case was treated. 

Currently there are extensive efforts in South Korea to limit infection.  This includes intensive contact tracing for all cases, with notification of countries where the contacts have travelled.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (or MERS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (or MERS-CoV). The first known case of MERS occurred in Jordan in April 2012.  Most patients with MERS develop severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.  About 3-4 or every 10 patients identified with MERS have died.

MERS-CoV is spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person.  Infected people have also spread MERS-CoV to others in health care settings such as hospitals.  MERS-CoV does not appear to spread easily from person-to-person; to date, ongoing spread in the community has not been documented.

The Department of Public Health and Social Services is working with CDC and key partners to prepare and monitor for this health threat.

Currently there is no vaccine to prevent MERS-CoV infection, but people are encouraged to protect themselves from all respiratory illness by taking everyday precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, or sharing cups or eating utensils, with sick people.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.

When Should Someone See a Health Care Provider?

You should see a healthcare provider if you develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula or South Korea.  You should tell the healthcare provider about your recent travel.

More information about MERS at http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/index.html .

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