NETEC Resource Library

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)


Special Pathogens of Concern: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

About MERS

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (referred to as MERS-CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, though gastrointestinal symptoms and pneumonia have also been reported (WHO).

Key facts:

  • Since September 2012, there have been over 2,400 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS. Around 35% of those patients have died (WHO).

  • Human-to-human transmission is possible, though rare unless in close contact, such as when providing unprotected care for a patient (WHO).

    • The current scientific understanding is that dromedary camels are a major reservoir host for MERS-CoV and the most likely animal source for human infection (WHO).
  • 27 countries have reported cases. However, so far, all cases of MERS have been linked through travel to, or residence in, countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula (WHO, CDC).

    • The largest known outbreak of MERS outside the Arabian Peninsula occurred in the Republic of Korea in 2015 (CDC).

    • This occurred in a hospital, reinforcing the need for the U.S. healthcare system to prepare for such an event, however unlikely.


"Figure 3. Epidemic curve of laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV human infections reported to WHO *as of 30 June 2019". WHO MERS-CoV Global Summary and Assessment of Risk, July 2019 (WHO/MERS/RA/19.1). Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2019. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

Where to Start:

Know the signs and symptoms:


"Patients in the U.S. Who Should Be Evaluated for MERS-CoV Infection." CDC.

Screening Tools

Clinical Management Tools

Laboratory Sources