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I have heard of SARS and MERS – how is COVID-19 different ?

Page last updated 16 June 2020

COVID-19, SARS (sudden acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) are all respiratory syndromes caused by coronaviruses.  In addition, these coronaviruses were initially found only in animals, but have mutated so that they can now infect humans.  Because they have not previously been known to infect humans, people usually do not have immunity to these coronaviruses.

However, the coronavirus causing each disease is different. In addition, the ease of transmission and severity of disease is also different.

SARS and MERS are associated with higher death rates than COVID-19. However because COVID-19 is more infectious, it spreads more easily and therefore has infected vastly greater numbers of people and caused more deaths.

SARS predominantly infected people in Hong Kong and did not spread rapidly around the globe like COVID-19.  There have been no recorded cases of SARS for more than a decade. While MERS is still a concern in the Middle East, it also has not spread to many other areas.

Sources & Citations

5. Hewings-Martin Y. How do SARS and MERS compare with COVID-19? Medical News Today. April 10, 2020. (Date accessed 27 May 2020)

MAT-AU-2000008 Date of preparation June 2020