Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus – MERS-CoV

A new coronavirus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has caused severe illness, similar to the virus that caused SARS in 2003. MERS-CoV does not seem to be easily passed from one person to another, so the risk it poses to humans is low.

What is happening?

Since 2012, MERS-CoV has caused severe illness and/or death in people. Most of these infections have been associated with either residence in, or travel to, the Arabian Peninsula. Currently a large outbreak of MERS-CoV, related to a traveller returning from the Middle East, is occurring in South Korea. Human-to-human transmission in this outbreak as in all others has been limited, indicating that this MERS-CoV does not easily spread from person to person. The exact source of MERS-CoV is unknown at this time. However, there is growing evidence that camels play a role in the transmission of the virus.

Treatment

Currently there is no specific treatment for coronaviruses. People who become sick are being treated to alleviate their symptoms. There is no vaccine for MERS-CoV.

Risk to Albertans is low

There have been no reports of people infected with MERS-CoV in Canada.

The current risk of being exposed to MERS-CoV in Alberta is very low. Alberta Health continues to monitor and track reports of severe respiratory illness in the province to detect human cases and ensure prompt and appropriate action is taken to protect the health of all Albertans.

You can protect yourself from all coronaviruses by:

  • Cleaning your hands frequently using either soap and warm water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers,
  • Covering your cough and sneezing into your arm to reduce the spread of germs,
  • Keeping common surfaces clean, and
  • Staying home when you are sick.

Currently there are no advisories restricting travel to the Arabian Peninsula or South Korea.

More MERS-CoV information