Defiant Saudis 'Brave MERS' to Kiss Their Camels
In protest of recent warnings from health ministry officials, some Saudi Arabians have begun kissing their camels, posting pictures and videos of the defiant acts on social media. Some claim they are braving a potential MERS infection, however, past reports indicate that it is unlikely that the virus can spread in this unusual manner.
Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a potentially deadly viral infection that causes severe fever and difficulty breathing. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that it kills 33 percent of those infected, as no vaccine or effective treatment is known at this time. Saudi Arabia, one of two regions where the virus supposedly originated, is in the midst of multiple outbreaks, reporting an estimated 480 infections over the last two years.
Recent reports from health organizations around the world are citing a recent investigation that found that the MERS virus might have been circulating among camels long before the first human case was discovered in 2012. A study published in mBio details how 100 percent of all camels tested in some regions of Saudi Arabia are infected with the MERS virus, which appears to affect them differently, sometimes displaying no symptoms at all.
In light of this news, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health recently asked that the country's citizen's wear gloves and masks when interacting with the animals, for fear of camel-to-human transmission, Gulf News reported on Sunday.
However, some Saudis, insulted by this declaration, have protested via social media, expressing their anger on Twitter and even posting pictures and videos of them kissing their camels.
One YouTube video has even gone viral. The video shows a man asking his camels to sneeze in his face.
"Look at me! Sneeze, sneeze! They say there's Corona in this," the man says in the video, according to a BBC translation. He shakes one of the camel's heads to emphasize his point. "She says no. Is there Corona in you? She says no."
But while the MERS-causing coronavirus may very well be in those camels, it is actually unlikely that it could spread to humans through sneezing or kissing.
Both the mBio study and a later WHO report have indicated that the MERS virus does not spread via nostril expulsion, and is far more likely to have spread to humans through infected camel meat or milk.
According to WHO investigators, the current influx of MERS cases was likely caused by poor hospital sanitation and precautionary measures, not camels.