MERS-CoV Outbreak update

15 June 2015

11 JUNE 2015

Europ Assistance provides the below information with the aim to mitigate its clients fears with the current MERS-CoV outbreak in South Korea.

Europ Assistance wishes to re-assure its clients that it is monitoring all major public health sources of scientific information such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).


The recent rapid increase in the number of cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in a cluster in South Korea has raised concerns about the possible impact of this outbreak on client operations in that country and of business travel to and from that country.

As of June 9th 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported a total of 64 cases including 5 deaths in South Korea since the country reported the first laboratory confirmed death on May 20th 2015. All cases have in some way been linked to primary, secondary and in few cases tertiary contact with hospital cases. Over 1,000 contacts are under surveillance by national public health authorities. This disease, which is caused by a new variant of Coronavirus originates from the Arabian peninsula, where the primary case for the Korean outbreak was contaminated. Therefore our recommendations will also consider the possibility of contracting the disease when travelling to other locations where case clusters have occurred, all of them in the Middle East. Overall the WHO has been notified of 1,218 cases and 449 deaths since September 2012.


Chances of contracting the disease through community exposition are almost nil and Europ Assistance does not recommend any travel restrictions to either South Korea or the Middle East.
Europ Assistance does however recommend avoiding unnecessary hospital visits in the affected country, at this stage South Korea, and the countries around the Persian Gulf.
Clients operating clinics or employee healthcare facilities in those areas must have detection protocols in place, triage out people with fever and cough, and have ample personal protection equipment (PPE) for their staff.


The disease is essentially transmitted by droplets (tiny drops of body fluid, usually mucous or saliva, suspended in the air, usually via coughing or sneezing) from infected patients, and can also be transmitted by contact with camel or camel meat, milk or urine. The great majority of cases are patients or healthcare workers that have been in contact with existing cases and therefore the main precautions must be to:

  • Avoid visiting affected patients or their contacts, or healthcare facilities that are treating affected patients. A list of the affected hospitals in South Korea is available on the site of the US Embassy in Seoul.
  • Protect oneself from droplet exposure when people are coughing by contact avoidance, by washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water (use hand sanitizer if water and soap are unavailable) and respecting cough etiquette. Wearing masks when people around you are coughing adds extra protection.
  • Avoid contact with camel or camel meat, milk or urine.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if cough or fever occur, always mentioning any travel near a cluster of cases or any contact with a potential case.


The main symptoms to worry about are cough and fever associated to potential contact with MERS-CoV cases or visits to hospitals where such cases are being treated. Shortness of breath is a potential associated feature as is diarrhea. There are no vaccines available and no specific treatment exists. The main treatment is supportive.

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
US Embassy, Seoul.