MIDDLE EASTERN RESPIRATORY SYNDROME - CORONAVIRUS (MERS-CoV)
What is MERS-CoV
This infection is a respiratory disease caused by a novel Coronavirus. Coronaviruses cause a variety of respiratory diseases from the common cold to SARS. The virus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is primarily circulating in the Arabian Peninsula though a few cases have been imported to other countries. Most recently several cases related to health care facilities have been reported in South Korea
Transmission can be from human to human and related to close contact though the exact mode of transmission is not known. Contagiousness is limited.
MERS-CoV related Travel Advisories
McGill University is following the PHAC’s recommendation for students, faculty and staff considering travel to these countries. Staff or faculty who are planning to visit these regions should consult at the pre-travel clinic at the J.D. MacLean Centre for Tropical Diseases in the Montreal General Hospital of the MUHC.
For students, please note that the University International Mobility Guidelines require students travelling abroad to be guided by the Canadian Government Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) travel advisories and to seek exemption for travel to any country or region under a DFATD Advisory.
The current advisory for travel to any area where MERS-CoV has been reported is Level 1 which consists of practicing usual health precautions. See this link for updates.
MERS-CoV Risk in Canada
The risk of this infection in Canada is low, but nonetheless possible as travelers arrive regularly in Canada from the affected countries.
The exact mode of transmission of MERS-CoV is unknown at this time. When it has occurred among humans it was usually related to being close household contact or in health care facilities.
You cannot get infected with MERS-CoV by simply walking next to someone who has a cough.
The incubation period can be from a few days to 14 days.
The symptoms are those associated with severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) defined primarily by respiratory symptoms, i.e. fever (over 38 degrees Celsius) AND new onset of (or exacerbation of chronic) cough or breathing difficulty as well as findings on the examination, or x-ray (e.g. pneumonia, pneumonitis, or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome [ARDS]).
The severity of the symptoms can vary. Please see this site for a more complete description.
If You Think You Have Been Exposed to MERS-CoV
If you have the above symptoms and have been in close contact or taken care of someone with a respiratory infection and you are arriving from a Middle Eastern country or South Korea then take the following steps:
Seek medical attention immediately; if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing and have arrive from a Middle Eastern country or South Korea within the last 14 days.
It is preferable to go directly to the emergency room of a hospital either in your own car or by ambulance, NOT by using any form of public transportation.
Be sure to tell the triage nurse at the hospital that you feel ill and that you have recently travelled to a region where the MERS-CoV virus disease was present. Also detail the activities or work that you participated in while travelling.
If you are not experiencing symptoms, you may monitor yourself by:
Taking your temperature twice daily for the first 14 days after arriving in Canada.
If at any time during these 14 days you should get a fever and/or any Ebola symptoms, follow the instructions above
You can help protect yourself against these types of viruses by following some general measures:
- Avoid close contact with anyone showing signs of illness (such as coughing and sneezing);
- Cough and sneeze in your arm rather than your hand;
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly;
- Stay at home when sick.
Related Links and Information
- World Health Organization
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- Center for Disease Control
- Direction de santé publique de Montréal