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

OTTAWA, June 10, 2015 /CNW/ -

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 Korea 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


SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

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


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