22 June 2014

MERS (2)

As laboratory studies continue, scientists now believe that camels are an intermediate host for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.[1] Bats native to the region are being studied, while other animals such as rats, cats, and dogs have been suggested as study targets.

While Saudi Arabia has been the central and major location of human infection, the virus has also proven present in camels of the Levant and Africa. It seems camels do not die from the virus. But they are confirmed as a source of human infection.[2] The transmission element from camel to humans is still unclear.

As for human-to-human, some people recover apparently because they have natural antibodies. So far there is little evidence available to study in this regard, but scientists in many different laboratories across the world are working on it.
The scientists cited evidence that the MERS virus did not transmit readily from camel to human or from human to human — at least in November 2013. Three of the patient's friends report having visited the camels daily with the victim, and were uninfected. The victim's 18-year-old daughter developed cold symptoms shortly after he was hospitalized, but was also found to have been uninfected.[3]

David Swerdlow, M.D., of the Center for Disease Control who is leading CDC’s MERS-CoV response: “It’s possible that as the investigation continues others may also test positive for MERS-CoV infection but not get sick. Along with state and local health experts, CDC will investigate those initial cases and if new information is learned that requires us to change our prevention recommendations, we can do so.”[4]

There is some question about unpasteurized camel milk as a MERS transmission factor.

Optimistically, "The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday [17 June 2014] that the recent surge of the respiratory disease in Saudi Arabia appears to be abating but warned that the deadly Mers virus remains a serious public health problem, especially with the approach of haj pilgrimages."[5]

See frequently asked MERS questions and answers at the Center for Disease Control. The CDC is saying, among other recommendations:
CDC currently does not recommend that anyone change their travel plans.  If you are traveling to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula, CDC recommends that you pay attention to your health during and after your trip. The CDC travel notice for MERS-CoV was upgraded to a level 2 alert. The travel notice advises people traveling to the Arabian Peninsula for health care work to follow CDC’s recommendations for infection control, and other travelers to the Arabian Peninsula to take general steps to protect their health.

Unfortunately, some camels are dying but the cause is a "mystery bug" as reported in the United Arab Emirates.[6] Further news about this can be expected.

[1] Melissa Healey, "Camels transmitted MERS to humans but virus probably came from bats," 4 June 2014, Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-sn-camels-mers-bats-20140604-story.html : accessed 7 June 2014).
[2] "Camels Confirmed as MERS Virus Source in Humans," 5 June 2014, Newsmatch Health (newsmaxhealth.com/newswidget/camels-MERS-virus-source/2014/06/05/id/575292/?promo_code=12390-1 accessed 13 June 2014). See also "Evidence for Camel-to-Human Transmission of MERS Coronavirus," 4 June 2014, New England Journal of Medicine (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1401505?query=featured_home& : accessed 7 June 2014).
[3] Healey, ibid.
[4] "US: Coordinating CDC's emergency response to MERS," 20 May 2014, H5N1 (http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0517-mers.html : accessed 23 May 2014).
[5] Sajila Sasseendram, "Dubai tests 1,000 camels to conduct Mers study," 18 June 2014, Khaleej Times (http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp? accessed 21 June 2014).xfile=data/nationhealth/2014/June/nationhealth_June25.xml&section=nationhealth
[6] Samir Salama, "Wastewater treatment, mystery camel killer disease high on FNC agenda," 14 June 2014, Gulf News (gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/government/wastewater-treatment-mystery-camel-killer-disease-high-on-fnc-agenda-1.1347068 : accessed 21 June 2014).

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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