Despite an abundance of scientific evidence linking camels to the carriage and likely spread of the MERS virus (see here, here, & here) the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture has spent months either evading or denying the issue (see Saudi MOA Spokesman: Camel Link Unproven, MERS-CoV Is MOH Problem).
It was less than two weeks ago when the new Minister of Health suggested people avoid raw camel products (see Crofsblog Saudi Arabia: Faqih urges avoidance of camel meat and milk), although he gave himself some wiggle room by stating more studies were needed to prove the link.
Indicative of the widespread outrage and disbelief among camel owners who insist on the innocence of their stock, we’ve seen numerous stories like the one below in the Arabic press.
Health authorities have called for caution in dealing with camel meat, milk
Image Credit: A Saudi farmer kisses a young she-camel - Credit: Al Sharq
For many Saudis, the idea that camels – a beloved national symbol that literally made settlement of that arid region possible – could carry a disease deadly to humans, is simply unthinkable. 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, in an abrupt about face that is likely to stir considerable controversy , the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture has issued a statement 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.
The Agriculture Ministry said in a press release posted on a number of health measures that must be adhered to, including: not to approach direct from camel than it needed with the necessary health precautions and wear respiratory protective masks when dealing with camels, and the need to wash hands with SOAP before and after touching the camels, we recommend wearing protective gloves, especially in cases of birth and dealing with cases of diseased or dead.
It said it was also a costume favorite for use in hazaeralabl and not going out in that outfit outside hangars, as well as not eating meat and camel milk without heat treatment, good cooking of meat, boil milk before drinking, stress rapidly inform the nearest agricultural or veterinary unit in case of any illness in camel or call toll-free 8002470000.
The Ministry of agriculture said in its statement that it had prepared a plan to face this disease in 1433, 2012 in cooperation with FAO and the Ministry of health include a comprehensive survey covers all kinds of livestock to the Kingdom to investigate the epidemic, in particular disease virus SK, where proven relationship between cases of camels, the Ministry initiated a human the hopes of all cooperation with them, indicating that they will publish details of the plan later.
While an important (albeit, belated) step forward by the MOA, we’ll have to wait to see if these new recommendations are eventually embraced by camel owners, or ignored.