MERS cases linked to camel milk – WHO

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Camels are suspected as the virus source but the routes of transmission remain unknown
Camels are suspected as the virus source but the routes of transmission remain unknown
Four cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been linked to camel milk in Saudi Arabia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The National IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia (SAU) reported laboratory-confirmed cases of infection between 29 September and 11 October.

Out of seven cases, four reported frequent contact with camels and often consumed raw camel milk.

A 51 year old male from Haradh City developed symptoms on 30 September and died on 5 October, said WHO.

The possible contact with animals and consumption of raw camel products of a 69 year old male from Taif City who developed symptoms on 17 September is under investigation.

Transmission routes unknown

Although camels are suspected to be the primary source of MERS-CoV leading to human infection, the routes of direct or indirect zoonotic transmission remain unknown, according to an assessment in June in Eurosurveillance.

A possible route might be foodborne transmission through consumption of raw camel milk or undercooked meat.

Boiling milk before consumption could be an easy, achievable local measure to prevent transmission and to preserve consumption of camel milk, said the authors.

It is not yet understood exactly how people become infected with MERS‐CoV and the source is not clear, said WHO.

Strains of MERS‐CoV that match human strains have been isolated from camels in Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

Hygiene recommendations

The health organisation recommended general hygiene measures such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals and avoiding contact with sick animals.

People should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked, it added.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry nor does it recommend travel or trade restrictions.

Globally, 877 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including at least 317 related deaths have been reported to WHO.

MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS‐CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

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