Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome - Coronavirus

UPDATE for BC Physicians from the Provincial Health Officer - June 5 2015 (PDF, 107KB).

More details on MERS-CoV and the ongoing out break can be found on the BCCDC website at: http://www.bccdc.ca/dis-cond/DiseaseStatsReports/EmergingRespiratoryVirusUpdates.htm.

What you should know

What is it?

The Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a particular type of coronavirus which has caused illness over the past year, primarily in the Middle East.

Coronaviruses represent a family of viruses that range from the common cold to something more serious, such as SARS. The MERS-CoV is similar to the SARS virus, and has had a high mortality rate, at over 50 per cent. It can cause flu-like symptoms, with the majority of patients developing serious pneumonia-like symptoms. However, unlike SARS, it does not appear to transmit easily from person-to-person at this point.  

The risk to British Columbians from MERS-CoV is low. To date there have been no cases identified in North America, and the only cases which have been found outside of the Middle East have been directly or indirectly linked to travel to that region.

What should I do to protect myself?

The risk here in B.C. and Canada is low. Cases have not been seen here in Canada, and while we do not know yet how people are becoming infected, evidence to date suggests that the virus does not spread easily between people.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to practice good infection control practices. This includes:

  • Washing hands frequently;
  • Covering coughs and sneezes;
  • Keeping common surfaces clean; and
  • Staying home when sick.
  • If you have traveled to an affected area and your illness becomes severe, see a doctor. Call in advance and let them know of your travel or exposure information so they can take proper precautions.

What is B.C. doing to monitor this?

Public health officials here in B.C. are working closely with colleagues across the country and internationally, including the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization, to ensure we have a robust, coordinated response.

The BC Centre for Disease Control laboratory is working closely with the National Microbiology Laboratory to ensure that we are able to provide quick, accurate and efficient testing of anyone here in B.C. who has symptoms and has a connection to the affected areas.

BCCDC and the Provincial Health Officer are also providing regular updates to health practitioners here in B.C., so that they are aware of the ongoing situation, and are able to quickly identify and report any potential cases.

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