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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus - Advice

11 Jun 2013

On 5 June 2013, the World Health Organization updated previously published travel recommendations for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Note: Formerly called novel coronavirus 2012.

Since September 2012, more than 50 cases of MERS-CoV have been identified globally. Approximately half of these people died. All cases identified so far have had either a direct or indirect connection with the Middle East.

However, some cases identified in recent travellers from the Middle East have resulted in local, non-sustained transmission to close contacts. Thus far, all human-to-human transmission has occurred either in a household, work environment, or health care setting. The mode of transmission currently remains unknown.

Advice for Travellers

Although the source of the virus and the mechanism of transmission is unknown, it would be prudent to try to reduce the general risk of infection while travelling by:

  • Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
  • Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
  • Adhering to food safety and hygiene rules such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables unless they have been peeled, or unsafe water.
  • Avoiding close contact with live farm or wild animals.
  • Travellers to the Middle East who develop symptoms either during travel or within 14 days after their return are encouraged to seek medical attention and to share their history of travel. People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands) and to delay travel until they are no longer symptomatic.

Based on the information available, WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.

Note: Some countries have however, introduced special screening at points of entry with regard to this event.