Middle East

Saudi Arabia warns of MERS risk from camels

Kingdom's agriculture ministry tells people to exercise caution, as death toll since outbreak reaches 142.

Last updated: 11 May 2014 20:20
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Saudi Arabia has urged people who come in contact with camels to wear masks and gloves [Reuters]

Saudi Arabia has warned its citizens to wear masks and gloves when dealing with camels as health experts said the animal was the likely source of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.

The Saudi Agriculture Ministry urged people who come in contact with camels to "exercise caution and follow preventive measures," after scientific studies commissioned by the Health Ministry proved a connection between camels and the virus that causes MERS.

"It is advisable to wear protective gloves, especially when dealing with births or sick or dead [camels]," state news agency SPA reported on Sunday.

The link between human cases and camels has been the subject of extensive study among scientists abroad, but has been relatively absent from much of the official domestic debate.

Saudi Arabia also reported three deaths from MERS on Sunday, raising the death toll from the disease since it first appeared in the country in 2012 to 142.

The Health Ministry said in a statement on its website it had identified three new cases of the coronavirus, pushing the total number of infections to 483.

The rate of infection in Saudi Arabia has surged in recent weeks, with the total number nearly doubling in April and rising by a further 25 percent in May.

The recent increase has raised concerns over the influx of visitors expected to convene in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in July during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and again during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in October.

The disease has spread across the region, with MERS cases reported in the Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar, Malaysia, Italy, Britain and the United States.

MERS is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.