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Tue 29 Apr 2014 01:46 PM

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Saudi livestock chief rejects MERS camel link

Head of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s livestock committee plays down camel research

Saudi livestock chief rejects MERS camel link
(Getty Images - Photo for illustrative purpose only)

The head of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s livestock committee has moved to play down research that found a link between the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the presence of the coronavirus in camels, saying no infections or deaths have been documented among people working closely with the animals.

The study by the World Health Organisation, released this year, found the virus was widespread in camels and may be jumping directly from camels to humans.

Senior study author Ian Lipkin, of Columbia University, said in February that research now showed the virus was “extraordinarily common” in camels and had been for at least 20 years.

“In some parts of Saudi Arabia, two-thirds of young animals have infectious virus in their respiratory tracts,” he told AFP.

However, Sulaiman Al Jabri, the head of the livestock committee at the chamber, said this week that there were strict regulations implemented on livestock in the kingdom, the Saudi Gazette reported.

“These include health and vet checkups. The animals undergo checkups in countries where they are imported from, and they are checked again at local ports. The Ministry of Agriculture also provides the needed vaccines,” he said.

He rejected the link between MERS and camels.

The Health Ministry said on Sunday that eight more people had died after contracting MERS, bringing to 102 the number of fatalities in the kingdom since September 2012.

A total of 339 cases have been recorded to date in Saudi, which has been the site of the bulk of confirmed infections worldwide.

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