Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention

Definition

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a severe respiratory condition caused by a specific virus. The virus is most often found to countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula.

Causes

MERS is caused by a virus. The virus is spread through close contact with infected people. It spreads most often among those who live with or are caring for people with current infection.

Virus

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Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of MERS include:

  • Having close contact with someone who has MERS or who has been exposed to MERS
  • Caring for patients who have MERS or handling their lab specimens
  • Exposure to camels that may have MERS
  • Recent travel to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever with or without chills
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough and/or sore throat
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Talk to your doctor about any recent travel to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula, especially if the travel occurred within the past 14 days. Tell your doctor if you have had contact with someone who is ill and who has recently traveled to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.

Your bodily fluids may be tested to confirm the source of the infection. This can be done with:

  • A sputum test
  • Blood tests

You may have a chest x-ray.

Treatment

Currently, treatment for MERS is not available. Supportive care will be given to help relieve symptoms and decrease discomfort.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting MERS or any virus:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid personal contact with sick people or their items, such as utensils.
  • Clean frequently used objects such as toys and doorknobs.