Saudi warns of camel products amid MERS scare

Saudi Health Minister advised against consuming camel products, noting that experts concluded the mammal could act as an incubator for the virus

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Acting Saudi Health Minister Adel bin Mohammad Faqih advised citizens of the kingdom Tuesday against consuming camel products, noting that experts had concluded the mammal could act as an incubator for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

“There has been a consensus during discussions [with experts] over the past two days … and there was advice not to get in close contact with camels, especially sick camels,” said Faqih.

He said Riyadh had brought together health experts from around the word, among them officials from the World Health Organization, to consider best practices in dealing with the virus that has so far killed more than 100 people in Saudi Arabia.

“There is one communication on not to consume meat or raw meat products from camel,” he said.

“A further commination or awareness campaign that will be executed soon … is that generally it is advisable not to be in contact with sick animals especially that the virus can be detected [in the animal] and therefore we must be careful,” he said.

“It is appropriate that caution be exercised with the infected camel, especially for those who are in close contact whether to feed or treat them and they need to wear face masks and take the necessary precautions,” he said.

Scientists are not yet clear precisely how the MERS virus is transmitted to people, but it has been found in bats and camels, and many experts say camels are the most likely animal reservoir from which humans are becoming infected.

MERS, a SARS-like viral disease first detected in 2012 that has caused outbreaks in the Middle East and sporadic cases around the world, has raised international alarm in recent weeks with a surge in infections and deaths in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia remains the worst-hit country with 345 confirmed cases according to recept reports by Agence France-Presse, of which 102 have been fatal.

The World Health Organization said last week it had been informed of a total of 243 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection worldwide, including 93 deaths.

Other Middle Eastern countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have also reported cases of the virus.

While there is no cure yet, scientists have found natural human antibodies to the virus and say their discovery marks a step towards developing treatments for the often fatal disease.

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