Last Updated on Apr 29, 2014

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Patients with MERS usually present with respiratory problems which may be very severe and prove to be fatal. Diagnosis of MERS has to be done immediately for the treatment measures to be implemented.

The symptoms of infection with MERS virus develop within 10 to 14 days of exposure to the virus. Typically, the MERS-CoV infection results in severe respiratory distress accompanied with cough and high fever.

In the beginning, flu-like symptoms are seen. Mild breathing disorder may slowly or rapidly progress to severe shortness of breath and inability to maintain oxygenation. A wide spectrum of symptoms was seen in patients.

The results of a research published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases suggested that fever was seen in 98% of infected patients, cough in about 83%, shortness of breath in 72%, and muscle pain in about 32%. About a quarter of patients also complained of diarrhea and vomiting. The results also suggest that MERS was more common in persons with underlying chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

The virus may also attack vital organs like kidney and lungs, which may result in problems like kidney failure, inflammation of the heart sac or severe systemic bleeding.

Diagnosis of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Diagnosis of MERS is done using a combination of symptom evaluation and travel history to countries where disease is found.

The following laboratory tests can confirm the presence of the disease:

  • A reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test, performed on a sample of respiratory secretions or blood.
  • Chest X-ray can show the presence of pneumonia.
  • The lymphocytes and platelet counts are usually reduced in the blood.
  • Creatinine phosphokinase and serum lactate dehydrogenase levels may be increased.


  1. Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus - (

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