MERS virus: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

MERS virus

Published: 10 July 2013

The situation to date

We understand that 80 people have been confirmed to be infected with MERS-CoV[1]. Unfortunately, it has been reported that more than half of the people infected have died.

The Maritime Administration of the US Department of Transportation has released a memo relating to this infection. There is now a reporting requirement that vessels calling at US ports must comply with.

Most cases have originated from the Arabian Peninsula. Several cases have also been reported in Italy, France, the UK and Tunisia - these latter cases acquired their illness either from travel to the Arabian Peninsula or from close contact with a sick person who had travelled to that area.

What is MERS-CoV?

It is a new virus which causes a respiratory illness, often with a fatal outcome. It can spread between people.

How to suspect if someone suffers from the illness

It will be important to pay careful attention to a crew member or passenger as potentially suspicious if they have:

(a) a fever (temperature more than 38ºC or 100.4ºF) and respiratory symptoms such as coughing and breathlessness; and

(b) a history of travel from the Arabian Peninsula or neighbouring countries within 14 days, or if they had close contacts with an ill traveller from those areas.

What to do upon suspicion?

Suspected crew member(s) and passenger(s) should wear a mask, if available, and they should be isolated in a private cabin until proper Medical attention can be sought.

Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Anyone who had close contacts with the suspected individual should be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms for 14 days.

Compliance with US Foreign Quarantine Regulations, 42 CFR Part 71.21

The master of a ship destined for a US port is required to report the onboard occurrence of any death or any ill person among passengers or crew to the Quarantine Station with jurisdiction over the port at which the ship will arrive.

This requirement is referable to any illnesses or deaths that occurred during the 15 days before the ship arrives at the port, and also to the period after the ship left a US port[2].

Simple preventive measures

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • Ensure vessels have sufficient supplies of hygiene materials
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Avoid close contact with sick people - but ensure that any sick persons on board a vessel receive due medical and other care as may be necessary
  • If concerned about a possible risk situation, wear a face mask

The Association is grateful to Dr. David Kan, Partner at Howse Williams Bowers, Hong Kong for preparing this advisory to members.

If members have any concerns or queries, they are encouraged to contact the Association soonest.


[1] WHO:

[2] Further reporting guidance can be found at: