Saturday, January 23, 2016

Media: Camels Test Positive For MERS-CoV In Jeddah Market


The Saudi MOH website isn't responding this morning, but the MOH did post an update on twitter this morning (see above) indicating that no new MERS cases have been recorded since yesterday's two `camel-contact' cases. 

The Arabic media, however, is filled with numerous reports that the 58 y.o. male from Jeddah (reported yesterday) was a butcher working in a camel market, and that his infection has prompted testing of camels at his facility.   

The translations are murky (one returns `in one of the ten heads of camels out of 20 head examined', while another `eleven straight camels out of 20 straight screened.').  Whatever the actual number of positive tests, it was sufficient to prompt the MOH and MOA to halt the movement of camels to markets in Jeddah. 

Representative of the media coverage, this is from

"Corona" prohibit the movement of camels in Jeddah 

The Ministry of agriculture has banned movement of camels and camel market in the winery in Jeddah against the background of positive results from the Ministry of health on a butchers in Jeddah "SK".
Undersecretary of the Ministry of agriculture livestock Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-albetshan, the results of laboratory tests by the Ministry of Agriculture allocated by specialized veterinary teams stood on the camel market in the winery in Jeddah on Friday showed positive results of Middle East respiratory syndrome "SK Mirs" eleven straight camels out of 20 straight screened.
Said Dr. albetshan: Veterinary teams specialized applied all necessary actions to complete investigating the source of infection, and all precautionary measures to prevent the transmission of disease in coordination with the relevant government authorities (health, Jeddah, police) which includes the prohibition of movement of camels from the market while making sure they are free of disease and isolate virus detachment until the camel stops virus excretion, and sensitize contacts should take preventive measures to reduce transmission, in addition to clearing all camel pens inside the market in coordination with the administration of the cattle market.

The idea that camels – a beloved national symbol that literally made settlement of that arid region possible – could carry a disease deadly to humans, has been a difficult public health message to `sell' in Saudi Arabia. 

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.

But the camel-MERS connection has been recognized since the summer of 2013 (see Lancet: Camels Found With Antibodies To MERS-CoV-Like Virus), and since then we’ve seen numerous studies that demonstrate not only prior infection, but active shedding of the MERS virus from dromedary camels (see EID Journal: Replication & Shedding Of MERS-CoV In Inoculated Camels).

After months of inaction – and sometimes outright denial - in May of 2014 the Saudi Ministry Of Agriculture Finally 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.

Compliance with these recommendations has been limited, with considerable backlash from camel owners, who have even threatened legal action (see Saudi Camel Owners Threaten Over MERS `Slander’).

While camels are likely responsible for only a fraction of the human infections in Saudi Arabia (most are human-to-human), they continue to `seed' the virus into the human population, thereby setting off new rounds of human-to-human transmission.

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