Via The Globe and Mail, a Reuters report: Scientists link MERS virus in Saudi Arabia to camels. Excerpt:
The 40-odd men gathered in a sandy, dung-scattered auction pen at one of Saudi Arabia’s largest camel markets were fiercely dismissive of a link scientists have found between the animals and an often fatal virus in humans.
“It’s not true. It’s a lie. We live with camels, we drink their milk, we eat their meat. There’s no disease. We live and sleep and spend our whole lives with them and there’s nothing,” said Faraj al-Subai’i, a trader at the market.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus has infected 345 people in the conservative Islamic kingdom since it was identified two years ago. It causes fever, pneumonia and kidney failure in some, and killing around a third of sufferers.
April has seen a sharp increase in cases, mostly in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The official count of the World Health Organization (WHO) lags far behind those announced by affected countries, which now totals more than 425 cases and more than 100 deaths.
At least some of the increase comes from hospital-related outbreaks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and in Abu Dhabi.
But a flurry of cases has also been reported from the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
And in the past few weeks Greece, Malaysia, the Philippines and Jordan have seen cases in travellers who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia or the UAE.
Although many patients in a recent outbreak in Jeddah appear to have become infected through person-to-person transmission in hospitals, MERS has been found in bats and camels, and many experts say the latter form is the most likely animal reservoir from which humans are becoming infected.
Camels occupy a special place in Saudi society, providing a link to an important but vanishing nomadic tradition, and valued at prices that can climb to hundreds of thousands of dollars.