JEDDAH – Ever since a study said the coronavirus has been “extraordinarily common” in camels for at least 20 years, the camel market has been in focus in the Kingdom. However, Sulaiman Al-Jabri, the head of the livestock committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), stated that no infections or deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) caused by the coronavirus have been documented among people working closely with camels.
“There are strict regulations that are implemented on livestock in the Kingdom. 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,” said Al-Jabri, rejecting any link between camels and the coronavirus.
However, people are still edgy. Public fears have been fueled by a rapid rise in the number of fatalities from the respiratory infection.
A Sudanese shepherd selling camel milk said that these days he is getting less number of visitors.
The Health Ministry said on Sunday that eight more people have died after contracting the lethal Middle East virus related to SARS.
The ministry reported the deaths in a statement on its website late in Sunday evening. It said it had detected a total of 16 MERS cases over the past 24 hours.
The latest cases bring to 102 the number of people who have died after contracting the disease in Saudi Arabia since September 2012. A total of 339 cases have been recorded to date in the Kingdom, which has been the site of the bulk of confirmed infections.
Among the latest dead were a child in Riyadh, and three people in Jeddah, which has seen a spike in infections in recent weeks. The ministry also reported confirmed cases in the city of Tabuk, near the border with Jordan.
On Saturday, the ministry reported that a Saudi man died in Riyadh and another in Jeddah.
Egyptian authorities on Saturday said officials there had detected the country’s first confirmed infection in a 27-year-old civil engineer who recently returned from Saudi Arabia.
Other Mideast countries that have past reported cases of infection include Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. A small number of cases have been diagnosed in Europe and Asia.
MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003. There is no vaccine or cure for MERS, though not all those who contract the virus become ill. It is still unclear how it is transmitted. – With agencies