Monday, November 18, 2013

OIE: Updated Q&A On MERS Coronavirus


Coronavirus – Credit CDC PHIL



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My thanks to Helen Branswell for tweeting this updated Q&A on the MERS virus from the OIE, the World Organization For Animal Health..


While some in the news media have jumped on the notion that people are contracting this virus directly from camels, the OIE says there is insufficient evidence to support that theory – recommending instead to keep an open mind - and not get too far ahead of what is actually known.


I’ve excerpted just a few segments (bolded underlined  emphasis are mine) – primarily those dealing with the issue of finding the virus in camels – so by all means, follow the link to read it in its entirety.



Update November 2013 - Questions and Answers MERS coronavirus (CoV)


What is the source of MERS CoV?
OIE together with its partner organizations the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and national animal health authorities of affected countries is closely following investigations into a possible animal source of MERS CoV.

The current epidemiological investigation includes researching potential sources of exposure to the virus which are numerous and include other humans, the environment, food and water, as well as animals. Detailed information collected from relatives and other persons in contact with people infected with MERS CoV can help to provide important clues about the source of their infection.

To date, no formal proof has been highlighted on a potential animal origin. Exposure sources and modes of transmission also remain to be clarified.

Can animals become infected with MERS CoV?

Although experimental infection of animal cultured cells and recently monkeys with MERS CoV has been possible, to date the MERS CoV has not been naturally detected in animals.

Are animals responsible for MERS CoV infections in people?

To date there is no evidence that people have become infected through contact with animals. However there is also a possibility that MERS CoV may have evolved from other coronaviruses that have been circulating in certain animals. Additional public health investigations are needed to establish the source of exposure for human infections with MERS CoV when the source has not been identified as another human. So far, three patterns of infection have been reported by WHO:

  • community acquired cases (the exposure sources remains unknown and might include an animal, food or environmental source)

  • hospital acquired infections

  • infection acquired through close human to human contact (household).

Did MERS CoV come from bats? 

Although a relative to this virus had already been detected in bat species, and a fragment of viral genetic material matching the MERS CoV was recently found in one bat from Saudi Arabia, more evidence is needed to directly link the MERS CoV to bats or any other animal species.

What about the suspicion that camels play a role in MERS?

Currently there is no strong evidence to consider that camels are a source of infection for human cases of MERS. Based on available epidemiological data it is difficult to explain the relationship between positive serological results in camels and cases of human infections with MERS CoV. Indeed, to date, there is no potential similarity between the strain of MERS CoV isolated in humans and the suspicions shown in camels. It is important to remain open minded about all potential sources of exposure for human cases until more information is available.

(Continue . . . )

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