The number of MERS cases out of Riyadh continues to escalate with 20 cases reported over just the past 8 days. While many of the recent cases have been attributed to either family or nosocomial transmission, three of today’s four cases do not list a known exposure.
The latest figures list 20 people currently infected in Saudi Arabia, with 3 in home isolation and 17 hospitalized.
We’ve seen `camel contact’ mentioned several times recently as a possible source of infection for a few of these cases, and the prevailing theory is that camels `reseed’ the virus into the community from time to time, sparking fresh outbreaks.
Most cases, however, almost certainly come from human-to-human transmission; either among family members, or in healthcare settings. Admittedly, the source of many human infections is never determined.
Despite repeated advice from the MOH (see KSA MOH Reiterate Camel Warnings On MERS) 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.
For many Saudis, accepting that camels – a beloved national symbol that literally made settlement of that arid region possible – could carry a disease deadly to humans . . . is nearly impossible. Hence the MOH advice is frequently ignored.
Unless and until an effective MERS vaccine can be developed and widely deployed among camels, MERS is a problem that is unlikely to go away.