News / Health

Camels May Be Source Of Deadly Coronavirus

A camel milk farm.  Scientists have found a clue that suggests camels may be involved in infecting people in the Middle East with the MERS virus, July 3, 2013
A camel milk farm. Scientists have found a clue that suggests camels may be involved in infecting people in the Middle East with the MERS virus, July 3, 2013
Lisa Schlein
The World Health Organization said a recent study indicating that dromedary camels may be the source of the coronavirus is far from conclusive.   WHO said investigations must continue into the exact origins of this disease, which so far has killed 46 of the 94 confirmed cases.

The World Health Organization said it welcomed any study that can shed more light on the coronavirus.  But it adds the study, which suggests a possible linkage between the infection in camels and spread of the disease to humans, leaves many questions unanswered.   

This SARS-like disease first emerged in the Middle East last year.  It is known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS-Coronavirus, because of its prevalence in that region.  

An international team of researchers took blood samples from 50 camels across Oman and another 105 in the Canary Islands.  The team also tested a number of other animals from the Netherlands, Chile and Spain.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says the scientists have detected the presence of a virus similar to the MERS-coronavirus in camels from Oman.  They also found antibodies in all of the Omani camels, as well as lower levels of antibodies in 15 of the camels from the Canary Islands.  

“That means that the camels have been infected at some point in time and that produced antibodies.  Now, to be sure that this is the same MERS-coronavirus as it is in humans, we need to find the virus itself, not antibodies.  So, this would be the next step-to find the virus and identify it as the same one,” stated Jasarevic.  

The disease remains shrouded in mystery.  The source of the coronavirus is not known.   No one knows how people become infected with this virus or how it is transmitted.  The illness is similar to SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.  It causes fever and pneumonia.  There is neither treatment for the coronavirus nor a vaccine to protect against the disease.

Most of the deaths have occurred in Saudi Arabia.  Others have died in Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.  Several people have fallen ill and died in France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Tunisia.  All had either visited the Middle East or been infected by someone who had been in the region.

Saudi Arabia restricted visas for the 2013 hajj, which attracts millions of pilgrims, in fear of the spread of the virus.

WHO spokesman Jasarevic said more investigations are needed because the study does not provide any insight into how humans become infected with coronavirus.

“Most reported human cases basically acquired infection through the contact with another person, and those who have not been infected by other humans, most of them have not had contacts with camels," said Jasarevic. "It is also possible that there are more than one animal species that is infected with the coronavirus.  So, basically it gives us some clue and direction to go, but… we still do not know what the source of the virus (is) and, most importantly, we still do not know what kind of exposure makes humans being infected.”  

The World Health Organization has no specific recommendations on how to prevent infection.  But it does advise people to avoid contact with sick animals and birds and to take basic hygiene measures, especially frequent hand washing and changing of clothes and boots, after handling animals or animal products.

WHO said people should not eat raw or undercooked animal products, including milk.  They should avoid unwashed fruits or vegetables, and drinks made without safe water.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs