Pilgrims advised to avoid direct contacts with camels

A man wearing a mask looks on as he stands in front of camels at a camel market in the village of al-Thamama near Riyadh May 11, 2014. Saudi Arabia said people handling camels should wear masks and gloves to prevent spreading Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), issuing such a warning for the first time as cases in the kingdom of the potentially fatal virus neared 500.
PHOTO: Pilgrims advised to avoid direct contacts with camels

Indonesian pilgrims on the minor haj to Saudi Arabia have been advised by the Health Ministry to avoid direct contacts with camels.

Head of the Health Research and Development Agency at the Health Ministry, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, said the coronovirus causing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) was suspected to spread to humans through direct contacts with infected camels.

"So, Indonesian people who travel to the Arabian Peninsula should avoid direct contact with camels. I have advised travel agents to remove visits to camel breeding farms in their [minor haj] trip packages," he said in a statement in Jakarta on Monday, as quoted by Antara news agency.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also advised people in the region to not drink unboiled milk, especially camel milk, and make sure that they consume only properly cooked food.

On Nov. 11, 2013, the Saudi Arabian Health Ministry announced that MERS-CoV had been detected in a camel following a finding of a MERS-CoV infection on a resident in the country. The finding was in line with a previous report saying that there is a reactive antibody of MERS-CoV in camels.

Other molecular diagnostic assessments in Saudi Arabia also found MERS-CoV infections in camels in a number of regions in the country.

"This data has supported our suspicion that camels are the source of MERS-CoV transmission although more research needs to be done to verify," said Tjandra.