Kenyan camels test positive for MERS

Kenyan camels test positive for MERS. | Courtesy of the CDC
Researchers have found that nearly 50 percent of camels in certain areas in Kenya have tested positive for the virus behind the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the University of Liverpool announced on Friday.

The study surveyed nine herds of single humped camels in Laikipia County and of the 335 camels studied, 47 percent tested positive with antibodies against MERS. This survey will likely lead to further research into the role these animals play in transmission of the disease. The research team consisted of University of Liverpool researchers alongside researchers based in the U.S., Europe and in Kenya.

"Although Laikipia County camel density is low relative to more northern regions of Kenya, our study suggests the population is sufficient to maintain high rates of viral transmission and that camels may be constantly re-infected and serve as long term carriers of the virus,” Eric Fèvre, chair of the Veterinary Infectious Diseases within the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said. “MERS in camels, it seems, is much like being infected by the common cold.”

Human cases of MERS were first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia; since its discovery, it has infected 1,595 people and has lead to 571 fatalities. Although the majority of cases are believed to be transmitted between people, camels are considered a reservoir animal for the virus.

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