Causes of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)

Learn about the cause of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Also find out how the virus that causes it is believed to be spread.

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What causes Middle East respiratory syndrome?

MERS is an infectious disease caused by a virus from the coronaviruses family. The virus that causes MERS is known as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Coronaviruses cause the common cold, but some can also cause more severe illnesses with flu-like symptoms. This includes the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus. Some cases can result in death.

How is the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome believed to be spread?

Current understanding of the MERS virus is that it has entered the human population from direct or indirect contact with:

  • infected camels
  • camel-related products, such as raw camel milk

Scientists believe that the MERS virus can spread from an infected person to others through close contact. This is because the virus has spread from infected people in hospitals to other patients. This may also happen if you live with or care for an infected person.

The MERS virus does not seem to spread as easily as the SARS virus.

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