Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) Update

The new coronavirus (now called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS-CoV) has infected a total of 44 people world-wide. Cases have been reported from Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Britain and France. In Tunisia, Britain and France the initial cases all travelled in the Middle East. With 30 of the cases, Saudi Arabia has been the most affected. There have been 23 deaths, mostly in elderly people with chronic illnesses.

While much remains unknown about this virus (e.g., where it came from, what animals might harbour it, etc.), it still has shown no increased transmission to humans beyond a few very close contacts of cases or, as in one case, to hospital workers who did not take strict precautions to avoid infection in a small hospital outbreak in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia had announced it would send samples taken from animals possibly infected with the MERS virus to the United States for testing to find the source of disease.

The risk for travellers going to the countries that have reported cases is extremely low. It appears that, in order to become infected with this virus, close personal contact, meaning being in the same small, enclosed space with an infected person for a prolonged period of time, is required for transmission of this virus. The World Health Organization has not recommended any travel restrictions.