Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Spread Is Partly Travel Driven June 12, 2015 By Will Sowards Leave a Comment If you are traveling to the Middle East, there is a wide variety of things that you need to prepare for. From visas to luggage, the list is long and not always easy to navigate. But, the most important part of your upcoming trip may not just be preparing for the sandy desert. An outbreak of MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has spread slowly throughout the region since 2012, and, while a large scale outbreak has not happened, there have been a few minor incidents involving visitors who have taken the disease home with them. Planning a trip to the Middle East? Have your passport ready before you go! Get your travel documents through Passport Health today! A recent incident involved a 76-year-old man who returned from a trip to the Middle East to his native South Korea. He was diagnosed with the disease soon thereafter. His case lead to a total of at least 18 incidents within a 10 day period. One man, who had contact with an individual within the group of 18, broke a voluntary quarantine and traveled to China and has since been quarantined. This outbreak is the largest to date outside of Saudi Arabia with more than 25 laboratory confirmed cases. Researchers are trying to determine how the 76-year-old Korean man first contracted the virus, but little is known about MERS transmission. Person-to-person transmission has proven difficult for the virus, and it appears that it is spread mostly through close personal contact, but the exact means remain unknown. Even how patient zero was infected isn’t entirely documented, but it is thought that the virus may have originated in camels. Because of this, the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control have suggested that travelers are sure to take precautions with animals in the Middle East and make extra certain that they always wash their hands after contact with an animal. MERS Fast Facts: Year Discovered: 2012 Case Count: ~1,150 Countries Affected: 19 Country With Most Cases: Saudi Arabia The respiratory virus, which causes fever, headache and other flu-like symptoms, is rarely fatal. However, it does underscore the fact that travelers must take proper precautions before, during, and after travel to ensure that they do not spread potentially dangerous diseases, and a travel medicine consultation is key to gaining this knowledge. Before traveling to a foreign region, be sure to receive advice on what diseases may or may not be present. A Passport Health travel clinic can be a great resource in this regard. If you have questions about your destination or need help in finding which medications you may need, our nurses and staff will be more than willing to assist you. For more information on the vaccinations and travel medicine options that Passport Health requires, see our travel medicine page. Have you traveled in the Middle East? What health concerns should other travelers be aware of? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter or through our comment section below.