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

Updated May 3, 2016

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

Why you should take note

Since April 2012, cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been identified in the following countries in the Middle East: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon,  Iran and Bahrain.

Several other countries have also reported MERS-CoV cases in individuals who have travelled to the Middle East, including France, Italy, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). These individuals acquired the disease through limited local transmission among close contacts, including health care workers.

Some strains of coronaviruses are the cause of the common cold, but others can cause more severe illnesses with flu-like symptoms, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), with some cases resulting in death. While MERS-CoV is also a coronavirus, it is not the SARS virus.

The symptoms of MERS-CoV are similar to severe pneumonia including: fever, cough, and shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Since MERS-CoV was first identified, serious illness and death have been associated with patients having underlying medical conditions and/or in older individuals. The illness can be less severe in younger, healthy people.

Risk to Canadians

The public health risk posed by MERS-CoV to Canadians is considered low. Some of the infections have occurred in clusters of close contacts or in health care settings; however, no community wide transmission has been observed.

The current understanding of MERS-CoV is that it has entered the human population from direct or indirect contact with infected camels or camel-related products (e.g. raw camel milk).

In situations where it has appeared to have spread between people, those cases involved close contact with MERS-Cov infected individuals including family members, fellow patients and healthcare workers, indicating the importance of following strict infection control practices in health care settings.

Federal and provincial laboratories are able to detect the virus, and have been testing specimens of any suspect cases. No cases have been detected in Canada.

Canadians can help protect themselves and others 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 MERS-CoV at this time, a Travel Health Notice has been posted to provide advice to Canadian travellers to affected regions. 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 put in place additional measures to safeguard the travelling public.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

Updated 13 August 2015

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

Why you should take note

Since April 2012, cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been identified in the following countries in the Middle East: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon and Iran.

Several other countries have also reported MERS-CoV cases in individuals who have travelled to the Middle East, including France, Italy, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). These individuals acquired the disease through limited local transmission among close contacts, including health care workers.

The outbreak in South Korea, which began in May, was the largest outbreak of MERS-CoV outside the Middle East. It has now been brought under control, with no new cases reported since July 4, 2015.

Some strains of coronaviruses are the cause of the common cold, but others can cause more severe illnesses with flu-like symptoms, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), with some cases resulting in death. While MERS-CoV is also a coronavirus, it is not the SARS virus.

The symptoms of MERS-CoV are similar to severe pneumonia including: fever, cough, and shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Since MERS-CoV was first identified, serious illness and death have been associated with patients having underlying medical conditions and/or in older individuals. The illness can be less severe in younger, healthy people.

Risk to Canadians

The risk to Canadians is low. This virus does not spread easily from person to person and the risk of exposure is primarily in the affected Middle Eastern countries.

The current understanding of MERS-CoV is that it has entered the human population from direct or indirect contact with infected camels or camel-related products (e.g. raw camel milk).

In situations where it has appeared to have spread between people, those cases involved close contact with MERS-Cov infected individuals including family members, fellow patients and healthcare workers, indicating the importance of following strict infection control practices in health care settings.

Federal and provincial laboratories are able to detect the virus, and have been testing specimens of any suspect cases. No cases have been detected in Canada.

Canadians can help protect themselves and others 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 MERS-CoV at this time, a Travel Health Notice has been posted to provide advice to Canadian travellers to affected regions. The Agency has also posted adviceExternal Link for travellers planning pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj or Umrah.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 put in place additional measures to safeguard the travelling public.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

Updated 30 July 2015

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

Why you should take note

Since April 2012, cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been identified in the following countries in the Middle East: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon and Iran.

Several other countries have also reported MERS-CoV cases in individuals who have travelled to the Middle East, including France, Italy, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). These individuals acquired the disease through limited local transmission among close contacts, including health care workers.

The outbreak in South Korea, which began in May, was the largest outbreak of MERS-CoV outside the Middle East. It has now been brought under control, with no new cases reported since July 4, 2015.

Some strains of coronaviruses are the cause of the common cold, but others can cause more severe illnesses with flu-like symptoms, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), with some cases resulting in death. While MERS-CoV is also a coronavirus, it is not the SARS virus.

The symptoms of MERS-CoV are similar to severe pneumonia including: fever, cough, and shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Since MERS-CoV was first identified, serious illness and death have been associated with patients having underlying medical conditions and/or in older individuals. The illness can be less severe in younger, healthy people.

Risk to Canadians

The risk to Canadians is low. This virus does not spread easily from person to person and the risk of exposure is primarily in the affected Middle Eastern countries. At the same time, we do not yet fully understand exactly how people become infected with MERS-CoV. Current research suggests that contact with live camels or camel-based products (eg. milk or meat) may play a role in the transmission of the virus. Experts are still investigating its source and how it spreads.

In situations where it has appeared to have spread between people, those cases involved close contact with MERS-Cov infected individuals including family members, fellow patients and healthcare workers, indicating the importance of following strict infection control practices in health care settings.

Federal and provincial laboratories are able to detect the virus, and have been testing specimens of any suspect cases. No cases have been detected 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 to affected regions. 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 put in place additional measures to safeguard the travelling public.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

Updated 6 July 2015

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

Why you should take note

The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is currently investigating the largest outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outside the Middle East. The Republic of Korea's (South Korea) healthcare-associated cluster has affected patients, visitors of patients and healthcare workers in healthcare facilities and close relatives of the cases.

Cases have been linked to healthcare facilities located in the following regions of the Republic of Korea (South Korea): Chungcheongnam, Daejeon, Gyeonggi, Jeollabuk, Seoul. It is recommended that travellers follow the advice of the local authorities in the Republic of Korea (South Korea)External Link to keep up-to-date on local recommendations.

Since April 2012, cases of MERS-CoV have been identified in the following countries in the Middle East: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon and Iran.

Several other countries have also reported MERS-CoV cases in individuals who have travelled to the Middle East, including France, Italy, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). These individuals acquired the disease through limited local transmission among close contacts, including health care workers.

Some strains of coronaviruses are the cause of the common cold, but others can cause more severe illnesses with flu-like symptoms, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), with some cases resulting in death. While MERS-CoV is also a coronavirus, it is not the SARS virus.

The symptoms of MERS-CoV are similar to severe pneumonia including: fever, cough, and shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Since MERS-CoV was first identified, serious illness and death have been associated with patients having underlying medical conditions and/or in older individuals. The illness can be less severe in younger, healthy people.

Risk to Canadians

The risk to Canadians is low. This virus does not spread easily from person to person and the risk of exposure is primarily in the affected Middle Eastern countries. At the same time, we do not yet fully understand exactly how people become infected with MERS-CoV. Current research suggests that contact with live camels or camel-based products (eg. milk or meat) may play a role in the transmission of the virus. Experts are still investigating its source and how it spreads.

In situations where it has appeared to have spread between people, those cases involved close contact with MERS-Cov infected individuals including family members, fellow patients and healthcare workers, indicating the importance of following strict infection control practices in health care settings.

Federal and provincial laboratories are able to detect the virus, and have been testing specimens of any suspect cases. No cases have been detected 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 to affected regions. 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 put in place additional measures to safeguard the travelling public.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

Updated 10 June 2015

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

Why you should take note

Since April 2012, cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been identified in the following countries in the Middle East: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon and Iran.

Several other countries have also reported cases in individuals who have either travelled to the Middle East or have had contact with an ill individual who had. France, Italy, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and South Korea, have reported further local transmission among close contacts who have not travelled to the Middle East.

South Korea is currently investigating the largest outbreak of MERS-CoV outside the Middle East. The South Korean cluster has affected patients, visitors of patients and healthcare workers in healthcare facilities and close relatives of the cases.

Cases have been linked to healthcare facilities located in the following regions of South Korea: Chungcheongnam, Daejeon, Gyeonggi, Jeollabuk, Seoul. It is recommended that travellers follow the advice of the local authorities in South KoreaExternal Link to keep up-to-date on local recommendations

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.

The symptoms of this MERS-CoV are similar to severe pneumonia: sudden and serious respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Since MERS-CoV was first identified, serious illness and death have been seen in patients with underlying medical conditions and/or in older individuals. The illness has been milder in younger, healthy people.

Risk to Canadians

The risk to Canadians is low. This virus does not spread easily from person to person and the risk of exposure is primarily in the affected Middle Eastern countries. At the same time, we do not yet fully understand exactly how people become infected with MERS-CoV. There is growing evidence that contact with live camels or camel-based products (eg. milk or meat) may play a role in the transmission of the virus. Experts are still investigating its source and how it spreads.

In the known situations where it has appeared to have spread between people, those cases involved close contacts: family members, co-workers, fellow patients and healthcare workers, indicating the importance of following strict infection control practices in health care settings.

Federal and provincial laboratories are able to detect the virus, and have been testing specimens. No cases have been detected 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 put in place additional measures to safeguard the travelling public.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

Updated 18 February 2015
Information is reviewed on a regular basis and updated as required.

Why you should take note

Since April 2012, casesExternal site of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been identified in the following countries: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, Iran, Algeria, the United Kingdom (UK), France, Italy, Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Tunisia, Egypt, Malaysia, Philippines, Turkey and the United States of America (USA).

The initial cases in France, Italy, Tunisia and the UK were linked to travel to the Middle East. Limited transmission in the countries of Europe and North Africa has occurred in close contacts of people who had travelled to the Middle East. All the European, North African, Southeast Asian, and North American cases have either visited the Middle East or been in contact with someone who had.

Additional cases of this new strain of coronavirus are expected.

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.

The symptoms of this MERS-CoV are similar to severe pneumonia: sudden and serious respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Since MERS-CoV was first identified serious illness and death have been seen in patients with underlying medical conditions and/or in older individuals. The illness has been milder in younger, healthy people.

Risk to Canadians

The risk to Canadians is low. This virus does not appear to spread easily from person to person and the risk of exposure seems to be only in the affected Middle Eastern countries.

At the same time, we do not yet fully understand exactly how people become infected with MERS-CoV. There is growing evidence that contact with live camels or camel based products (eg. milk or meat) may play a role in the transmission of the virus. 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. Recently, there has been an increasing number of infections among healthcare workers, indicating the importance of following strict infection control practices in health care settings.

Federal and provincial laboratories are able to detect the virus, and have been testing specimens. 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 NoticeExternal site 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 put in place additional measures to safeguard the travelling public.

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983