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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 a potentially severe respiratory viral infection.The symptoms of MERS are variable, ranging from asymptomatic to a mild flu-like illness to severe disease.

Advice for Travellers

People with symptoms of any acute respiratory infection should always practice respiratory hygiene (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands) to reduce the spread of infection.

In addition, travellers to the Middle East or countries with a known outbreak of MERS are advised to:

  • adhere to strict food and water precautions. Travellers should avoid consumption of undercooked camel meat, raw camel milk/urine or camel products (thoroughly cooked camel meat and pasteurized camel milk are safe)
  • avoid close contact with camels and other live farm or wild animals, especially if they are sick. Travellers should be advised to wash their hands frequently, especially after direct contact with these animals.

  • avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections: and wash their hands frequently, especially after direct contact with ill people, their personal belongings and their environment.

  • seek medical attention if compatible symptoms develop during or in the 14 days after travel, ensuring they mention their travel history.

Individuals with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease or immunocompromised are at higher risk of developing severe disease if they contract Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

No vaccine against MERS is currently available.

For further information see the TRAVAX Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus page.