MERS-CoV: clinical management and guidance

Guidance on investigating Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), public health management of suspected UK cases and advice to travellers.

MERS-CoV is a zoonotic respiratory virus and the causative agent of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). MERS-CoV is a coronavirus, first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. A similar strain in the UK was identified by Public Heath England’s (PHE) virus reference laboratories at Colindale, now UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Colindale. The virus was fully sequenced and detailed analysis indicates that the nearest relatives are bat coronaviruses.

Symptoms include fever and cough that progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In some cases, a diarrheal illness has been the first symptom to appear.

There is currently no vaccine available for MERS-CoV.


Primary MERS-CoV testing may be carried out at designated UKHSA MERS-CoV Testing Public Health Laboratories (Manchester or Birmingham), or alternatively at non-UKHSA (NHS or private) designated testing laboratories with locally validated MERS testing capabilities. Confirmatory testing of presumptive positive samples is carried out by the UKHSA Respiratory Virus Unit (RVU). Primary tests should not be sent to the RVU, as this will delay results.

Public health management

Updates to this page

Published 24 September 2012
Last updated 27 June 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated collection.

  2. Added 'MERS-CoV: advice for people visiting healthcare settings' to the collection.

  3. Added 'MERS-CoV: advice for people travelling to the Middle East'.

  4. A link to the MERS-CoV: infographics for travellers from the Middle East page can be found under Public Health management.

  5. Added clinical diagnostic laboratory specimen handling and processing under diagnosis.

  6. First published.