The World Health Organization (WHO) has discovered the possible source of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in three camels in Qatar. Two of the earliest diagnosed cases were men who had either worked in or visited a barn that contained the camels. Additional infected camels have also been confirmed in Saudi Arabia that no contact with Qatari animals. WHO released a statement Friday, November 29, 2013 stating that “these results demonstrate that camels can be infected with MERS-CoV but there is insufficient information to indicate the role camels and other animals may be playing in the possible transmission of the virus, including to and from humans.” The virus was first detected in September, 2010 with a total of 160 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection of MERS globally and 68 deaths. Confirmed diagnoses were made in England, Germany, France, Italy, Tunisia and the Middle East. Based on this latest finding, WHO has urged all member-states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and review any unusual patterns.
MERS is part of the Coronavirus family of viruses that can cause a range of ailments from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which became an epidemic in 2003. The virus could be transmitted between people in close and prolonged contact. The initial source(s) of infection for the new coronavirus remains unclear but the recent discovery of the virus in camels provides some hope.