The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Health Alert


MERS in the Republic of Korea

Updated June 30, 2015

What is the current situation?

On May 20, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) reported its first laboratory-confirmed case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). As of June 23, 174 cases in the Republic of Korea have been confirmed by the World Health Organization. All transmission has been linked to health care facilities where MERS patients were treated.

What is MERS?

MERS, a viral respiratory illness, was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

What can travelers do to prevent MERS?

All travelers can take these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of germs and protect against colds, flu, and other illnesses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; germs spread this way.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Be sure you are up-to-date with all of your shots and, if possible, see your health care provider at least 4–6 weeks before travel to get any additional shots.
  • Visit CDC’s Travelers’ Health( website for more information on healthy travel.
  • If you are sick:
    • Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Avoid contact with other people to keep from infecting them.
    • Contact your doctor if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after being in a health care facility in the Republic of Korea. Tell your doctor about your recent travel and presence in a health care facility before you go in for an appointment.

Clinician Information

Health care providers should be alert to patients who develop severe acute lower respiratory illness (such as one that requires hospitalization) and were present in a health care facility in the Republic of Korea within 14 days before illness onset.

  • Consider other more common causes of respiratory illness, such as rhinovirus infection.
  • Evaluate patients by using CDC’s MERS case definitions and guidance.
  • Immediately report patients with unexplained respiratory illness who meet CDC’s criteria for patient under investigation (PUI) for MERS to CDC through the state or local health department.
  • Contact your state or local health department if you have any questions.
  • See additional recommendations and guidance on CDC’s MERS website.
  • Health departments with questions should contact CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (770-488-7100).

Additional Information: