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

OTTAWA, Aug. 13, 2015 /CNW/ -

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 advice 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


SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

For further information: Public Health Agency of Canada, Media Relations, (613) 957-2983


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