Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been detected in a herd of camels in a barn in Qatar. The virus in the camels has been linked to two confirmed human infections from October 18 and 29, 2013.
Researchers from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands have confirmed the presence of MERS-CoV in three camels in a herd of 14 animals with which both human cases had contact. The confirmations were made with support from the National Institute of Public Health and Environment (RIVM), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
As a precautionary measure, the 14 camels from the farm have been isolated. All of the camels were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms when the samples were taken and remained so during the following 40 days. Researchers have also screened all farm workers and others who were in close contact with the two human cases – lab tests were negative for all contacts.
This latest finding indicates the high likelihood that camels can be infected with MERS-CoV. However, the researchers maintain there is still too little information to indicate what role the camels have in the possible transmission of the virus. The Supreme Council of Health is closely working with RIVM and Erasmus to test additional samples from other animal species and from the environment around the barn. Also, tests are being conducted on a national level to investigate the infection risk among individuals who are in close contact with animals.
People who are at high risk of infection from the MERS-CoV should avoid contact with animals when visiting farms where the virus is thought to potentially be circulating. For all others, general hygienic measures should be followed, including regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals and following food hygiene guidelines.
On Dec 1, 2013 WHO was informed of an additional three lab-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV in the United Arab Emirates.
All three cases are from one family in Abu Dhabi – a 32-year-old mother who died on Dec 2; a 38-year-old father who is in critical condition; and their eight-year-old son, who has mild respiratory symptoms. The earliest onset of illness was on Nov 15. There was no travel history linked to either the mother or father and there has been no known contact with another confirmed case or with animals.
During hospitalization, the mother gave birth to a child. The eight-year-old son’s illness was detected during an epidemiological investigation of family contacts. Further tests are ongoing for others who were in close contact with the family, including healthcare workers and the newborn.
The WHO was also informed of two deaths from previously-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV. Both patients were from Qatar and died on Nov 15 and Nov 21, respectively.
Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 163 lab-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including 71 deaths.