MERS-CoV travel advisory for those travelling to the Middle East


In the Arabian Peninsula and neighbouring countries*, since September, 2012, cases of severe respiratory illness due to a novel coronavirus infection (MERS-CoV) have occurred. As of 13th July, 82 cases have been detected globally, some of these arising in persons who had travelled to Europe from this region. Some cases have been passed from person to person, although there is no evidence of sustained spread from person to person currently. The source of the infection is unknown. It is likely to come from an animal or the environment. See WHO for further information.

If you are travelling to the Middle East, you should:

  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections and wash your hands after contact with ill people and their environment.
  • Practice good hygiene, i.e. wash your hands with soap and water after contact with the environment, or animals. Regular hand washing is one of the most important ways to prevent spread of infection.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
  • Adhere to food safety and hygiene rules, such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables unless they have been peeled, or drinking unsafe water.
  • Avoid close contact with animals or their waste products.

On return from this region, if you become ill with respiratory symptoms or other severe symptoms within 14 days, seek medical attention, and let your doctor know of your recent travel to this region. People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands) and delay travelling until they are no longer symptomatic, to reduce any exposure to other passengers.

*Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen

Hajj and Umrah 2013
The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world. This year, it will take place from approximately October 13 to 18. Hajj draws about 3 million Muslims from around the world. Umrah is a similar pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time of the year, but it is likely to be more crowded during the month of Ramadan (approximately July 9 to August 7, 2013) than at other times of the year. Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj and Umrah are associated with unique health risks.

This year the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: recommends that the following groups should postpone their plans for Hajj and Umrah: the elderly (above 65 years of age), those with chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, diabetes), those with immune deficiency (congenital and acquired), malignancy and terminal illnesses, pregnant women and children (under 12 years of age).

WHO Interim Travel Advice
WHO issued interim travel advice on MERS-CoV for pilgrimages to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, located here.

At this time, WHO do not advise special screening at points of entry nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restriction or changing travel plans for Hajj or Umrah because of MERS.