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Public Health Notice: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

19 November 2013
Information is reviewed on a regular basis and updated as required.

Why you should take note

Since April 2012, cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been reported by Jordan, Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, France, the United Kingdom (UK), Italy and Tunisia. Limited transmission in the countries of Europe and North Africa has occurred in close contacts of recent travellers from the Middle East.

Coronaviruses are the cause of the common cold, but can also be the cause of more severe illnesses with flu-like symptoms, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), with some cases resulting in death. This new virus is not the SARS virus. Additional cases of this new strain of coronavirus are expected. Official numbers are available hereExternal site.

Risk to Canadians

The risk to Canadians is low. This virus does not appear to spread easily from person to person.

At the same time, we do not yet fully understand exactly how people become infected with MERS-CoV. Experts are still investigating its source and how it spreads.

In the known cases where it has appeared to have spread between people, those cases involved close contacts: family members, co-workers, fellow patients and healthcare workers.

Federal and provincial laboratories have been testing specimens and there are currently no cases in Canada.

Canadians can help protect themselves against these types of viruses by following some general measures:

  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing signs of illness (such as coughing and sneezing);
  • Cough and sneeze in your arm rather than your hand;
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly;
  • Stay at home when sick.

Travel information

While the Agency is not advising any travel restrictions related to this event at this time, a Travel Health Notice has been posted to provide advice to Canadian travellers. We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and advise Canadians as appropriate.

What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada works with its national and international partners, including the World Health Organization, to monitor and share information. Through Canada’s national surveillance system, the Agency tracks the spread of flu and flu-like illnesses in Canada. We also monitor outbreaks of flu around the world.

The Agency assesses the risk, on an ongoing basis, of viruses being transmitted from an ill traveller to Canadians. We do this by working with our partners, including the Canada Border Services Agency, to support screening and detection and if necessary to enhance border health measures.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2973