Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the risk to Europe

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. So far, around 80% of cases are registered in Saudi Arabia, with only a small number of infections in Europe.

Since 2012, MERS cases have been reported cases across continents. Some European countries have treated cases, including Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Most of the cases were imported and did not result in further spread of the virus: in only few cases, further transmission occurred to family members or other contacts. The last case was reported in Germany in March 2015.

WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East, and that cases will continue to be exported to other countries by individuals who might acquire the infection after exposure to dromedary camels, animal products (for example, consumption of raw camel milk), or humans (for example, in a health care setting).

Typical MERS symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common and approximately 35% of reported patients have died. The virus does not seem to pass easily from person to person unless there is close contact, such as occurs when providing unprotected care to a patient. No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available, although vaccines and treatments are in development.