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Further Evidence Blames Camels for MERS Virus Outbreak

Apr 30, 2014 04:55 PM EDT
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Scientists have uncovered more evidence citing camels as the cause for the recent MERS-CoV virus outbreak sweeping across the Middle East.

Whole genome sequencing taken from nasal swabs of Saudi Arabian camels is the newest method researchers have used to confirm their beliefs, according to CBS News. They found a number of MERS subtypes in DNA of the animals, including one identical to the virus infecting humans, scientifically known as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus.

Spring 2012 marked the first documented cases, and since then MERS has sickened at least 339 people in Saudi Arabia alone and killed nearly a third of them, according to the country's Ministry of Health, CNN reported. United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt were also affected.

But 26 new cases were reported over the weekend, and scientists worry that the worst of the virus is not over.

"Any time you have an emerging infection that has a high case fatality rate, that's been around for over a year, that has caused illness in multiple countries, that's caused illness in travelers and health care workers, and for which there is no treatment or vaccine, we're concerned. We've been concerned for a year and a half, and we remain concerned," expressed Dr. David Swerdlow, who heads the team responsible for tracking MERS at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is not the first time people are pointing their fingers at the camel. One previous study examined Oman camel antibodies against antibodies in sheep, goats and cows, and found that MERS antibodies were present in 100 percent of the Oman camels, CBS reported.

Symptoms of this respiratory virus include fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, MERS has a 65 percent death rate.

And with millions of people descending into Saudi Arabia this fall for the holy pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, needless to say, scientists are worried, according to CNN.

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