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MERS coronavirus

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus (CoV) is a disease caused by a new virus that can cause severe respiratory disease.

MERS-CoV can cause 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 a little over 1000 people worldwide. So far, everybody who had MERS-CoV 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-CoV have died. There have been no cases of MERS-CoV in Australia.

It seems that the virus may have originated in camels although it is not clear how it has been passed to humans.

There is no specific treatment for MERS-CoV 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.

Up to date information about MERS and advice to travellers is available at health.gov.au and smartraveller.gov.au.

Last reviewed: October 2016

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