Novel coronavirus causing severe acute respiratory disease
Two novel coronaviruses have been identified—SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
SARS-CoV (the coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS) was first recognized in China in 2002, and it caused a worldwide outbreak from 2002 to 2003. Since 2004, there have not been any known cases of SARS-CoV infection reported anywhere in the world. MERS-CoV (the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS) was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and it continues to circulate and cause illness. Most MERS-CoV cases to date have been linked to countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula. In May and June 2015, the Republic of Korea had a large MERS outbreak that was transmitted in healthcare facilities. In May and June 2015, the Republic of Korea had a large MERS outbreak that was transmitted in healthcare facilities.
In addition to novel coronaviruses, there are also four “seasonal” (non-novel) coronaviruses—alpha coronaviruses 229E and NL63, and beta coronaviruses OC43 and HKU1—that commonly circulate and that most people get some time in their lives. In contrast to the novel coronaviruses, seasonal coronaviruses typically cause mild to moderate upper respiratory illness of short duration.
It is likely that human coronaviruses spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing and through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands. These viruses may also spread by touching contaminated objects or surfaces then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
MERS-CoV has spread from ill people to others through close contact, such as caring for or living with an infected person. Infected people have spread MERS-CoV to others in healthcare settings, such as hospitals. So far no ongoing person-to-person spread of MERS-CoV in the community has been identified.
In May and June 2015, the Republic of Korea had a large MERS outbreak that was transmitted in healthcare facilities.
Based on current information, the time between when a person is exposed to MERS-CoV and when he starts to have symptoms is 2-14 days. Many people confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection have severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some people also have gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea and nausea or vomiting. Many people with MERS will develop more severe complications such as pneumonia and kidney failure. About 30% of people with MERS die; most of the people who have died have had an underlying medical condition. Some infected people have only mild symptoms (such as cold-like symptoms) or no symptoms at all, and these people recover fully.
People with pre-existing medical conditions—such as diabetes; cancer; and chronic lung, heart, and kidney disease—may be more likely to become infected with MERS, or have a severe case. Individuals with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk for getting MERS or having a severe case.
Currently, there are no vaccines to prevent coronavirus infections, including infections with MERS-CoV. General preventive measures to protect yourself from respiratory illness—including novel coronavirus disease—including the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid personal contact—such as kissing, or sharing cups or eating utensils—with sick people.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as toys and doorknobs.
In addition to the measures listed above, the following preventive measures are recommended for travelers to countries in the Arabian Peninsula:
- 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.
- Practice general hygiene measures, including regular handwashing before and after touching animals, and avoid contact with sick animals.
- Avoid contact with camels if you are at a higher risk of severe illness.
- Do not drink raw camel milk or raw camel urine.
- Do not eat undercooked meat, particularly camel meat.
- If you are traveling to provide health care services in the Arabian Peninsula, review CDC’s recommendations for infection control of confirmed or suspected MERS cases.
- Call a doctor if you develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. Report recent travel history to your doctor, and call ahead so that the provider’s office can prepare for your visit.
Persons who are confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, MERS-CoV infection should do the following to prevent transmission of illness:
- Stay home, except for getting medical care (if needed)
- Separate yourself from other people in your home
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Wash your hands
- Wear a facemask
- Avoid sharing household items
- Monitor your symptoms
Recent Texas Trends
There have not been any cases of novel coronavirus (including MERS-CoV) identified in Texas residents.
Public health departments continue to work with healthcare providers to identify, evaluate, and test persons with suspected novel coronavirus disease. Three Texas public health laboratories are able to performing testing for MERS-CoV on persons who meet certain illness and exposure criteria as defined by CDC.