Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

This respiratory virus was first noticed in Saudi Arabia in 2012.  It is caused by a virus nih-imagebank-1450-72similar to the virus which caused the SARS outbreak in China in 2003.  Currently, it is mainly found in the Arabian Peninsula with some cases in 21 other countries.  There have been 2 U.S. cases, both in healthcare workers who had been working in hospitals in Saudi Arabia.  Both cases are doing well.  Initial symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
The cause is unknown but research has shown that camels and bats may play a role.  There is no vaccine available.

If you travel to Saudi Arabia or neighboring countries there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

  • Register with the US government  Smart Traveler Enrollment  Program  https://step.state.gov/step/
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Do not visit camel farms or have close contact with camels
  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk or undercooked meat
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and use alcohol based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available

If you become ill within 2 weeks of returning home, inform your physician of your travels.