US maritime warning for sick Middle East sailors

ME Respiratory Syndrome virus has caused 45 deaths in past 10 months.


Masters of ships destined for ports in the United States are required to immediately report any ill person among passengers or crew to the quarantine station with jurisdiction at which the ship will arrive.

Over the past ten months, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been notified of 82 laboratory-confirmed cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Of these 82 cases, 45 resulted in death.

This viral respiratory illness originated in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012 and spread globally. Infected persons display severe pneumonia-like symptoms including acute respiratory infection, fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The US Maritime Administration (MARAD) has issued an Advisory (No.2013-04) which states that crew members or passengers should be considered 'suspicious' if they have the following:

  • Acute respiratory infection, which may include fever greater than 38 deg.C (100.4 deg. F), cough and shortness or breath; and
  • History of travel form the Arabian Peninsula or neighbouring countries within 14 days;


  • Persons who develop severe acute lower respiratory illness who are close contacts of an ill symptomatic traveler who developed fever and acute respiratory illness within 14 days after travel from the Arabian Peninsula or neighbouring countries. Close contact is defined as providing care for the ill traveller (eg, a healthcare worker or family member), or having similar close physical contact; or having stayed at the same place (eg lived with, visited) as the traveler while the traveller was ill.

Suspicious ill crew members and passengers should be isolated in a private cabin until they are evaluated by a doctor to prevent transmission to others. Contact with other passengers and crew should be minimised. If masks are available, the ill crew member or passenger should wear a mask while not in isolation to prevent further spread.

Cabin mates and other close contacts of ill persons should be actively monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms for 14 days after the last known exposure.


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