Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

Hazard Recognition

The risk of infection with MERS-CoV in the U.S. is low. So far, transmission is limited, only occurring between people in close contact, such as those caring for or living with an infected person.

The CDC defines "close contact" as being about six (6) feet (approximately two (2) meters) from an infected person or within the room or care area of an infected patient for a prolonged period while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment (PPE). Close contact also includes instances where there is direct contact with infectious secretions while not wearing recommended PPE. Close contact generally does not include brief interactions, such as walking past a person.1

Healthcare providers should be aware of the need to assess MERS-CoV exposure history, risk factors, and signs/symptoms of infection, especially in ill persons who have recently traveled from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula or other areas with a reported case cluster(s). A person who develops severe acute lower respiratory illness (e.g., requiring hospitalization) and who has been in a healthcare facility in a region with a reported case cluster(s) within 14 days prior to illness onset should be evaluated for MERS. Use appropriate infection control measures when working with anyone presenting clinical symptoms and risk factors for MERS. All patient evaluations should occur in consultation with state and local health departments. The CDC MERS web page, Case Definitions, provides guidelines for evaluating potential cases for MERS-CoV infection.2

The CDC's Updated Information and Guidelines for Evaluation of Patients for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) Infection page provides additional information for clinicians.

Because most instances of person-to-person spread have occurred in healthcare workers and other close contacts, the WHO is currently not advising special screenings at points of entry or recommending the application of travel or trade restrictions related to MERS-CoV. In the event of future MERS outbreaks, employers and workers should consult the CDC web site for travel recommendations and the U.S. Department of State web site for travel alerts or warnings.

1 Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, "Frequently Asked Questions and Answers."

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Patient Under Investigation (PUI)."