Type: Viral

Geography: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Republic of Korea

Cases Per Year: 500

Fatality Rate: 35%

First Discovered: 2012 by Ali Mohamed Zaki in Saudi Arabia

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The incubation period ranges from 2 to 14 days with an average of 5 to 6 days. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, and gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea have been reported. Some patients are asymptomatic. Severe illness can cause respiratory failure requiring the use of mechanical ventilation and support in an intensive care unit. Severe cases are more likely to occur in older people, people with weakened immune systems, and those with chronic lung diseases.

Dromedary camels are a major reservoir host for MERS-CoV and are an animal source of MERS infection in humans. Most human cases have been attributed to human-to-human infections in healthcare settings.

Since 2012, 27 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and North America have reported cases of MERS, with 80% of the human cases reported by Saudi Arabia.

Photo: MERS-CoV virions – Electron micrograph.