Bookmark this page

View Printer Friendly PDF Printer Friendly PDF

Facts About...


What is it?

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first reported in 2012. It is a rare virus, but it can cause serious illness and even death. So far, all reported cases have occurred in people living in or travelling to the Middle East. Researchers believe that MERS-CoV does not spread easily from person to person. But there are still questions on how it spreads and where it comes from. No cases of MERS-CoV have been reported in Canada. For the most current updates regarding cases globally, go to World Health Organization’s website at,

How is it spread?

MERS-CoV does not appear to spread easily from person to person. However, people living in or travelling to the Middle East may be at risk of becoming infected. MERS-CoV has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. Infected people have spread MERS-CoV to others in healthcare settings, such as hospitals. Researchers studying MERS have not seen any ongoing spreading of MERS-CoV in the community.

The risk to Canadians of contracting (MERS-CoV) is low. There have not been any reported infections in Canada. Research is being done to determine the cause of MERS-CoV and how it spreads.

What do I look for?

In some cases there are no symptoms from a MERS-CoV infection. In other cases, people who are infected experience flu-like or more severe pneumonia-like symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • cough
  • muscle aches
  • chest pain
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • breathing difficulties

So far, all human-to-human transmission has occurred either in a household, work environment, or health care setting.

What to do if you become ill?

  • See your health care provider immediately if you or anyone in your household has travelled to the Middle East and within 14 days after travel, are showing some of the above symptoms such as fever and cough or shortness of breath.
  • Describe the symptoms over the phone before the appointment, so that health care staff can arrange for a visit without exposing themselves or others to the illness.
  • Make sure to tell the health care provider the full travel history such as naming all of the countries that were visited or whether a health care facility was visited while abroad.
  • While sick, stay home from work or school and delay future travel to reduce the possibility of spreading illness to others.

How is it treated?

For now, there is no specific treatment for people with MERS-CoV. Symptoms and complications are treated on a case-by-case basis. Consult your health care provider as soon as possible if you think you may have MERS-CoV. The sooner you get treatment, the better your chances are for recovery.

How can I protect myself?

It is possible that people travelling to the Middle East may be exposed to the virus. Follow these general infection prevention and control measures to reduce your risk of infections:

  • Avoid non-essential travel to areas affected by MERS-CoV.
  • Practice careful hand hygiene, for example, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid people who are sick and coughing.
  • Avoid undercooked meat and unsafe water.
  • Avoid close contact with animals.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Some MERS-CoV infections have happened in health care settings or where people are close to others who are sick. Health care workers and caregivers should follow routine prevention practices.

Sources: Public Health Agency of Canada, World Health Organization, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

More information can be obtained from

Durham Region Health Department, Environmental Help Line
905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613

October 17, 2014