Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that includes viruses that may cause a range of illnesses in humans, from the common cold to SARS and MERS.  Viruses of this family also cause a number of animal diseases.  Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)coronavirus

A novel coronavirus called "Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus" (MERS-CoV) was identified in 2012 as the cause of respiratory illness in people.  This particular strain of coronavirus has not been previously identified in humans.  There is very limited information on transmission, severity, and clinical impact.  Currently, all cases are associated with either direct travel to the Arabian peninsula, or contact with a returned traveler from the Arabian peninsula.

Currently there are no reports of anyone in the US getting infected with MERS-CoV .

Symptoms:  Symptoms of MERS CoV include severe acute respiratory illnesses with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.  Some mild respiratory illnesses were reported.  Atypical signs and symptoms such as diarrhea may be present in patients who are immune-compromised.

Diagnosis:  MERS CoV can be diagnosed through laboratory testing.  To increase the likelihood of detecting infection, it is recommended to collect specimens from different sites.  Lower respiratory tract, serum, and stool samples are preferred for PCR testing.  Upper respiratory samples may also be collected, but appear to be less sensitive than lower respiratory tract samples.  Samples from suspect cases should be sent to Maine's Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) for testing.

Infection Control:  Standard, contact, and airborne precautions are recommended for management of hospitalized patients with known or suspected MERS-CoV infection.

Treatment:  There is no specific treatment or vaccine for MERS-CoV.  Treatment is supportive.

For more information on MERS-CoV



Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. The illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained.

Since 2004, there have not been any known cases of SARS reported anywhere in the world.

For more information on SARS: