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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Saudi Arabia

09 May 2024

On 8 May 2024, the World Health Organization reported an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in Saudi Arabia. The outbreak was linked to a hospital in Riyadh between 10 and 17 April 2024. There were three cases, all men, one of whom has died.

MERS is an illness caused by a virus called MERS-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). For some people who are infected, MERS can be a severe, life threatening illness, but others might just have a mild flu-like illness.  The most common symptoms are fever, cough and breathing difficulties or being short of breath.

Advice for Travellers

To protect yourself from catching MERS when you travel you should:

  • avoid drinking raw camel milk or urine, or eating undercooked camel meat or camel products
  • wash your hands regularly, especially after contact with ill people or contact with animals
  • avoid close contact with live farm or wild animals, including camels
  • avoid close contact with people suffering from chest infections

If you become unwell and develop flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough and/or shortness of breath within 14 days of returning home, you must:

  • get medical attention as soon as possible by calling your GP by phone or call NHS24 on 111 (out of hours) 
  • tell the medical person about your travel history before they see you
  • practice respiratory hygiene measures to prevent you spreading the infection to others

There is no vaccine available to protect you against MERS.

For more information see the fitfortravel Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS CoV) page.