In one of the most major steps towards the prevention of the MERS-CoV also known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome cornavirus which spreads amongst the pilgrims each year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has imposed a ban on the sacrifice of camels from this year, which used to be a part of Hajj rituals in earlier years. Each person who takes part in the pilgrimage is required to sacrifice an animal or pay for a part in an animal which is then collectively sacrificed. The animals can be cows, sheep, goats or camels and the meat from the sacrifices is shared with family members and the poor and needy.
It is believed that the camels harbor the virus, and health officials in the Kingdom also believe that the sporadic zoonotic transmission is what might be playing a vital role in the fueling of transmission of the MERS-CoV in the Middle East and Gulf Regions. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the hardest hit country with 3 reported deaths and a discovery of 15 new MERS cases all in the last 48 hours. Khaled Al Mirghalani, the Ministry Spokesman spoke to the media and stated that the ministry is currently in discussion with the Makkah Governorate officials and the municipality for banning the slaughter of camels during the Hajj pilgrimages this year.
The spokesman also added that once the three concerned parties are in agreement, the ban on sacrificing camels will be formally implemented; it is reported to be in the weeks ahead of Hajj. The spokesman also added that the pilgrims who might want to sacrifice a camel or camels during the Hajj sacrifice ritual can easily do so through various organizations such as the Al Rajhi Banks and the Islamic Development Banks. Undersecretary for the preventive health at the Ministry, Abdullah Asiri also spoke to the media and stated that it is estimated that around 90 percent of the camels which are found in the Gulf region are carriers of the MERS-CoV. It is also suspected that the virus can transmit to a distance of over one meter.
Asiri also stated that around half of the camels found in the Al Ahsa region are carriers of the Virus. Those who come into contact with any infected camels can easily transmit the virus on to unsuspecting family members even before they start showing symptoms of the Virus. The younger the camel, the more likely it is to transmit the virus on to humans. It has been advised to all patients not to visit any health facilities for normal or minor ailments, or even if they think they have the flu, it is advised only to visit the health facilities if you start showing symptoms of MERS or you think you might be effected by the Virus.
People are also advised to keep exposure to animals to a minimum especially with camels, and if they do, gloves and a mask should be worn and your eyes or nose must not be touched after touching the camel.
Source: Arab News
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