In a bit of a follow-up to Sunday’s Saudi Camel Owners Threaten Over MERS `Slander’, the Saudi MOH and MOA have announced plans to sit down with camel owners in order to try to convince them of the risks of MERS from camels.
Up until the spring of 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture was less than receptive to the idea that camels carried the MERS virus (see Saudi MOA Spokesman: Camel Link Unproven, MERS-CoV Is MOH Problem).
But gradually - as more evidence emerged – the MOA reversed course and issued fairly strict guidance 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.
While camels are only briefly infectious, nearly all camels in Saudi Arabia (and surrounding countries) seem to get the virus at least once in their lifetime. Most MERS transmission is human-to-human, but sporadic zoonotic spillovers – from camels to humans – are believed the reason why new chains of infection continue to emerge.
The hope is that if you can prevent (or at least greatly reduce) the number of new introductions of the virus into the human population, you can prevent many of these large community clusters.
Over the past few months the Saudi government has ramped up regulations on camels, including excluding them from last month’s Hajj. There are calls to bar them from cities, for increased virological surveillance, and all of this `bad press’ has driven camel prices into the cellar. None of which has sat very well with camel owners.
This from the Arab News.
Last update 7 October 2015 12:57 am
JEDDAH: Officials from the agriculture and health ministries are set to hold a crucial meeting later this month on how to convince skeptical camel owners that the animals are the cause of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus infections and deaths.
This comes in the wake of the government drafting 10 recommendations on how to protect the community from the virus, including removing the animals from cities and introducing routine examinations of owners and camels.
It is expected that the meeting will be held within next two weeks. Preparations have already begun according to the guidelines laid down by Prince Bandar bin Saud, chairman of the Saudi Wildlife Authority.
As we’ve seen with H5N1 in Egypt, China, and Indonesia – convincing people that the animals their families have raised for generations could suddenly pose a deadly disease threat – isn’t an easy task.
This becomes even more difficult since the vast majority of people who come in contact with these animals are never affected.
A situation I suspect we’d have equal difficulty accepting if a new disease – deadly to humans – suddenly began spreading via domestic dogs or cats.