MERS Information for IMPS Attendees

General Information

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness.  It is also knows as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).  The virus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.  It is believed to have originated in animals, and has been found in camels.

MERS-CoV, like other coronaviruses, is thought to spread from an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as through coughing. However, the precise ways the virus spreads are not currently well understood.

MERS-CoV has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. Infected people have spread MERS-CoV to others in healthcare settings, such as hospitals. Researchers studying MERS have not seen any ongoing spreading of MERS-CoV in the community.

All current cases can be traced to travel in affected areas.   There is no information that MERS spreads through momentary or casual contact.   Affected areas include Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, South Korea, and a few other Pacific Rim areas. 

Symptoms

MERS causes severe respiratory illness, and symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.  Some cases have also reported gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

As the symptoms are very similar to the flu, there have been a number of suspected cases of MERS that turned out to be the flu.

Most serious cases have also been observed in people with pre-existing conditions that raise the level of risk for those people.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for MERS, other than caring for the symptoms.   People who are infected are hospitalized and isolated to prevent further spread of the illness.   Oxygen therapy is generally used to provide relief from respiratory distress.

Addressing Potential Infection

If you have symptoms that are similar to MERS, you should avoid contact with others.   If symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, you should seek treatment.   Please remember that the symptoms of MERS are very similar to the flu.   You are at very low risk unless you meet the listed criteria (recent travel to affected areas and contact with an infected subject.

If you are in contact with someone who is symptomatic, you should use standard precautions.   These include:

IMPS staff have developed a plan for addressing illness during the conference.   If you or another attendee is ill, you should notify staff at the registration desk.   If you have the symptoms listed above, you should not attend any meeting functions or sessions.   Conference staff will act in close coordination with the hotel, venue and local organizers to care for you.

All attendees are strongly urged to purchase medical travel insurance prior to the meeting.

  • Avoid contact with bodily fluids of an infected person.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching contaminated clothing, waste, or fluids.
  • Avoid touching your face, specifically your eyes, mouth, or nose until you have thoroughly washed your hands.