Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

MERS coronavirus

2-minute read

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus can cause severe respiratory disease.

MERS symptoms often include fever, cough, shortness of breath and pneumonia. Other symptoms can include muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and nausea.

The disease was first identified in 2012, and has infected more than 2,200 people worldwide. So far, everybody who has had MERS has lived in or travelled to the Middle East, has had contact with travellers from the area or can be linked to an imported case.

About a third of people who have contracted MERS have died. Most severe cases and deaths have occurred in people with underlying illnesses that may make them more likely to get respiratory infections. There have been no cases of MERS in Australia.

MERS is a zoonotic disease, which means it spreads from animals to people. MERS gets into human populations from dromedary camels. Exactly how it spreads from camels to people is not well understood. The virus doesn’t appear to spread easily from person to another person unless there is very close contact, but the way it spreads is not well understood.

There is no specific treatment or vaccine for MERS but early medical care can save lives. The Department of Health recommends that people travelling to the Middle East who have an underlying illness should avoid areas where camels may be present and ensure that they wash their hands often, before eating, and after touching animals. Use a hand sanitiser if soap and water is not available.

If you become unwell while travelling in the Middle East, don’t wait until you arrive back in Australia to seek medical assistance. See a doctor or go the local hospital's emergency department.

Last reviewed: October 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Department of Health | Fact Sheet for consumers/patients

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus - Fact Sheet for consumers/patients.

Read more on Department of Health website

MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) fact sheet - Fact sheets

Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses that include viruses that are known to cause illness in humans (including the common cold) and animals.

Read more on NSW Health website

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) - including symptoms, treatment and prevention :: SA Health

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that first appeared in Saudi Arabia in 2012

Read more on SA Health website

Department of Health | Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Important information for health professionals and the general public on MERS.

Read more on Department of Health website

Department of Health | Communicable diseases information

This page contains information on some of the activities of the Office of Health Protection, in managing communicable diseases in Australia

Read more on Department of Health website

Department of Health | Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) case definition

This document contains the case definitions for Severe acute respiratory syndrome which is nationally notifiable within Australia. This definition should be used to determine whether a case should be notified.

Read more on Department of Health website

Department of Health | Australian national notifiable diseases and case definitions

The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) has agreed that the following list of communicable diseases are to be notified nationally and provided to the Commonwealths National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS). CDNA has developed the Surveillance Case Definitions available on this page.

Read more on Department of Health website

Notifiable disease reporting :: SA Health

When and how clinicians should notify SA Health of the occurance of notifiable diseases under the Public & Environmental Health Act

Read more on SA Health website

Notification of infectious diseases and related conditions

Notifiable infectious diseases must be reported the Department of Health (the Department).

Read more on WA Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo