The Problem with Camels and MERS

If you’re like me then you’re intrigued by viruses and how viruses are transmitted– then you’ll be fascinated by the story of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.)

MERS is a coronavirus (in the same family as SARS– Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). It first popped up in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

On June 9th, 2015 the World Health Organization issued a statement encouraging people not to eat or drink uncooked or unpasteurized camel products– including camel urine. Of course, that was the big headline.

What’s interesting is that if you read further into this statement, it’s not exactly clear how MERS began to infect humans. We know that humans can infect one another but not easily which is good news.

How did humans first become infected? What is the reservoir– that seemingly innocuous place where the virus lives but doesn’t necessarily make its host sick?

Strains of MERS that have infected humans have also been found in camels. It is possible that other sources exist in animals but none have been identified yet. The WHO believes this then supports the theory that human infection is coming from camels.

It doesn’t take much of an internet search to determine that consuming camel products may be culturally important in the Middle East– hence the warning.

If you’d like to read more about MERS and its animal to human transmission then check out this link.

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