OIE downplays camels as possible MERS-CoV source

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
By Paul Martin

Robert Roos
Jul 22, 2013

Camels have been mentioned as possible sources of a few human cases of the mysterious MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), but the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said today there is little evidence of such a link.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday recognized the two latest MERS-CoV cases reported in Saudi Arabia, involving a 41-year-old man and a 59-year-old woman, both of whom are in hospital intensive care units.

The animal source of the virus has remained elusive, but some case-patients were reported to have had contact with camels before they got sick. For example, a German physician said in April that a United Arab Emirates man who was treated for MERS-CoV in Germany had close contact with a sick camel before he fell ill. The man, who was 73 and owned racing camels, died on Mar 26 while being treated in Germany.

But the OIE, in a questions-and-answers press release today, downplayed the notion of a camel connection.

“Currently there is no strong evidence to suggest that camels are a source of infection for human cases of MERS,” the agency said. “MERS CoV has not been identified in camels and current information from human cases does not suggest that exposure to camels is an important risk factor. It is important to remain open minded about all potential sources of exposure for human cases until more evidence is available.”

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