Fans visiting Qatar to attend the World Cup 2022 have been advised to stay away from camels due to the prevalence of camel virus in nearby Saudi Arabia. The camel virus, also known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), belongs to the coronavirus family which includes COVID-19 and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), similarly to Covid and seasonal influenza, “the usual symptoms of MERS include fever, cough and shortness of breath.”
Pneumonia is common, but MERS patients do not always develop this condition.
Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea, have also been reported in these patients.
In addition, “severe forms of the disease may result in respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation and intensive care unit management”.
Vincent Enouf, virologist and deputy director of the National Reference Centre (CNR) for influenza at the Pasteur Institute, said: “It was identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, which is why it was given the name MERS-CoV, for ‘Middle East Respiratory Syndrome’, which was attributed to it by the WHO.”
Mr Enouf further explained: “A few imported cases have been reported, but MERS has always remained very localised, limited to this region of the world.”
The WHO confirmed that since its appearance in 2012, 27 countries have reported cases of MERS, including in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States.
It added stated: “About 80 percent of the human cases have been reported from Saudi Arabia, mainly as a result of direct or indirect contact with infected camels or infected persons in health facilities.”
According to the organisation, a total of 2,500 cases of MERS have been reported since its detection in 2012, causing 858 deaths.
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He noted that in the same way, “the most serious cases of MERS, and the deaths it caused, mainly concerned people at risk, with co-morbidities.”
However, there is currently no vaccine for the camel virus.
He added: “Since the discovery of this virus, we know that there are many healthy carriers. A population immunity has probably been established locally.”