Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) circulates among dromedary camels in the Middle East. The virus can cause acute respiratory infections. Most cases of MERS have originated in Saudi Arabia. A few have been diagnosed in Europe, either because they were transferred to a European country for intensive care, or because they became ill after staying in the Arabian Peninsula. In some countries, it has also been transmitted to close contacts, including other patients and staff in hospitals.
The disease has been confirmed in patients who have been travelling to or living in the following countries in the Middle East:
- Saudi Arabia
- The United Arab Emirates
The infection has been confirmed in people in France, England, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Austria, Tunisia, Algeria, Malaysia, the Philippines, the USA and Turkey who have returned from the Middle East.
No travel restrictions
Advice about travel restrictions to some of the countries where MERS-CoV is reported has not been given. Neither the EU nor the World Health Organization have advised against travel to the region.
Good hand-hygiene is an important preventive measure which applies for all infections, including MERS. Travellers are also recommended to avoid contact with animals, particularly dromedary camels in the Middle East. Avoid drinking camel milk and camel urine and do not eat meat that has not been thoroughly heat-treated. There is no vaccine or preventive medicine against the disease.
After travel to the Middle East
If you have been in the Middle East or been in contact with MERS patients during the past 14 days and have symptoms of pneumonia, consult your physician.
Pilgrimages to Hajj
The above advice also applies for pilgrimages to Hajj, together with other general advice.