The pattern with MERS infections in Saudi Arabia appears to be the virus first jumps from a reservoir animal (almost certainly camels) to humans, and from there it spreads in a limited fashion in the community. Family members, and those who are exposed when these infected individuals are hospitalized appear to be at greatest risk of contracting the virus.
For now, sustained and efficient community spread has yet to be documented, although some pretty impressive clusters have been reported.
How many introductions of the virus into the community can occur without MERS becoming better established in human hosts is unknown, but obviously the fewer opportunities the virus gets to adapt to humans, the better off we all will be.
After ignoring the `camel-to-human’ transmission link for months,last May the Saudi Ministry Of Agriculture Issued Warnings On Camels, urging breeders and owners to limit their contact with camels, and to use PPEs (masks, gloves, protective clothing) when in close contact with their animals. Since then the evidence has continued to mount.
There remains, however, considerable reluctance among the Saudis to accept that camels – the beloved symbol of their country – could pose a serious disease threat to humans. A concept made even harder to accept due to the widespread belief in the healthful effects of camel’s milk and urine in the treatment of disease.
Today, the Saudi MOH has announced renewed efforts to educate the public about the danger of MERS, and the risks posed by contact with camels. This campaign is targeted at the city of Taif, which has reported well over 20 MERS cases over the past two months.
07 November 2014
The Ministry of Health has launched a new public information campaign in Taif in response to the recent spike in new cases of MERS-CoV in the region.
Medical professionals will be made available at public locations with the aim of educating citizens on the need to avoid unprotected contact with camels because of the risk of infection with MERS-CoV, underlining the crucial role of the community in preventing the spread of the disease in the Kingdom.
There have been 38 MERS-CoV cases reported in the Kingdom since 5 September. Nearly one-third of the patients reported close contact with camels before their infection.
The campaign will invite citizens to educate themselves by speaking to medical professionals and collect educational materials, which convey the need to:
- Avoid contact with camels, especially if they are sick, and their body fluids secretions.
- If you must be in contact with camels, wear a disposable mask over your mouth and nose, gloves, and a protective medical gown.
- Boil fresh camel milk, if not pasteurized.
- Cook camel meat (including liver) well before consumption.
The Ministry will have stands available at Qalb Taif Mall, Al Obaikan Mall and Taif Al Doaly until 15 November. Materials distributed, which can be found on the Ministry’s website, also explain signs and symptoms as well as precautionary protective measures one can take.
For more information about ways to prevent MERS-CoV, please contact the (937) infectious disease hotline or visit the Ministry’s website: http://www.moh.gov.sa/ccc