New Zealand Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

There continues to be cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Cases of MERS-CoV have been reported in several countries of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Countries outside the Middle East have also reported cases of MERS-CoV in returned travellers. All cases have either lived in or travelled to the Middle East, or had close contact with travellers returning from these areas.  There have been no cases in New Zealand to date.

MERS-CoV can cause a rapid onset of severe respiratory illness with a fatality rate of around 40%.  There is no vaccine for MERS-CoV.  Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties.  A variety of other symptoms, including muscle pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and nausea have also been reported. Some patients have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.  Severe cases have most frequently occurred in people with underlying conditions that may have made them more susceptible to infection (including diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, asthma and lung diseases, cancer and cardiovascular disease).

At this time, the primary source of infection remains unknown, but person-to-person transmission has been documented, particularly in healthcare settings.  There is increasing evidence of a possible role of dromedary camels in the outbreak.

The WHO advises that people at potentially higher risk of severe disease due to MERS-CoV should avoid close contact with animals when visiting farms or barn areas in affected countries.  Anyone travelling to affected countries should practice normal hygiene measures, including frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available.

Seek immediate medical attention if you feel unwell with symptoms similar to MERS-CoV infection while travelling or on your return to New Zealand.  Be sure to tell your doctor that you have travelled to a region where MERS-CoV is present.  Avoid close contact with people who are ill with these symptoms.

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