WHO confirms MERS-CoV virus detected in camels in Qatar

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The World Health Organization

Laboratory investigations have confirmed the presence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in three camels in Qatar, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday.

The camels were part of a herd of 14 animals with which two human cases had contact, the agency notes.

These results demonstrate, for the first time, that camels could be infected with the virus, said Peter Ben Embarek from the agency's Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses.

"Of course, it doesn't tell us much yet about whether camels are infecting humans or humans are infecting camels or both being infected by a third source – this is too early to say anything about that. But it is giving us a clue on where to look further for the source of exposure of humans to the virus. And it will help us design and implement more detailed studies that will tell us where the virus is circulating, what type of exposure are putting people at risk of getting the disease and that is really the key question we can answer now so we can in the future help stop the spread of the virus and help stop the exposure of humans to the virus."

Two weeks earlier, Saudia Arabia said it had found the virus in a camel that was also linked to human cases, Mr. Embarek said, but WHO has not heard further findings from that case.

Common symptoms of the virus are acute, serious respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

For now, WHO recommends that people with conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease or heart disease, avoid close contact with animals when visiting farms in the region.

Meanwhile, the general public is being asked to observe general hygiene measures, like wash their hands regularly before and after touching animals when visiting a farm or a barn, as well as avoid contact with sick animals, and follow food hygiene practices.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 2’00″

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