Overview of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus

A novel coronavirus was identified in 2012 as the cause of respiratory illness in people. The new virus is a beta coronavirus. It is different from any other coronavirus previously found in people. The novel coronavirus is not the same virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

Most people who got infected with the MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some people were reported as having a mild respiratory illness. The virus has been shown to spread between people who are in close contact. Transmission from infected patients to healthcare personnel has also been observed. Clusters of cases in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UK, France & Tunisia are being investigated.

There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by the MERS-CoV. Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms. Lab tests (polymerase chain reaction or PCR) for the MERS-CoV are available at HMC Virology Lab.

Standardized name

Since the discovery of the virus, scientific literature, databases and the media have used various names for it. To provide uniformity and facilitate communication about the disease, the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has decided to call the new virus Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). WHO and other Committee members strongly urge the use of this name in scientific and other communications. The standardized name was announced in the “Journal of Virology” on 15 May.

To date there is no conclusive evidence on the mode of transmission of the virus but there is a strong possibility that like other Coronaviruses it might be spread through direct contact with patients or their body secretions, through droplets expelled from the patient during coughing and sneezing or indirect transmission through touching services contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, eyes or nose.

MOPH advises all to practice good hand hygiene especially after contact with a sick patient and to cover the cough and sneeze with a tissue or upper arm.


Ministry of Public Health is closely following all acute respiratory distress patients admitted in the hospitals and the HMC lab is running the MERS-CoV tests for such patients as a part of the routine respiratory panel. Moreover, MOPH is also in close communication with WHO & CDC for any updates on recommendations and international situation regarding the MERS-CoV.

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