10 things you need to know about MERS and Desert Safaris

June 4th, 2014

There has been a lot of chatter about the transfer of the deadly MERS Coronavirus from camels to humans. While many of our guests are concerned, like anything else, education is the key. Armed with all the correct information, one can then make an educated decision about the level of contact with a camel an individual wants. Here are some of the facts…

1) 68 people have contracted the virus in the UAE, of these people, 10 have died. Two thirds of the people infected are health care workers. Twenty‐eight cases of Mers were identified in a hospital cluster in Al Ain City, the first of which was a 45‐year‐old male shopkeeper who died in the UAE on April 10. It was reported that he hadn’t recently travelled or had any contact with animals, and it’s not currently known how he caught it. A further 27 cases were health-care workers or had had contact with infected people; the remaining five cases, among them a mother and daughter and an unrelated four‐year-old child whose mother had recently returned from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. To date, nobody in the UAE has contracted the virus as a direct result of contact with camels

2) 8% of cases can be linked to a close contact with camels (KSA only so far). Of these cases, each were vets or camel handlers.

3) The Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) in Dubai has tested 20 year old frozen camel samples and has found traces of the virus back then. It shows that the virus has been around for a long time. If the virus has jumped from camels to humans, there is no current explanation of how or why this occurred.

4) Safari companies should have a certificate from the CVRL. Platinum Heritage is the only safari company in the UAE (at the time of writing) to have 100% of our camels certified to be clear of the virus.

5) The risk for humans is particularly high when interacting with camels that are between one and two years old, as more mature animals tend to build up a resistance to the virus. At Platinum Heritage, each of our camels are above this age.

6) Quite amusingly, the World Health Organisation has warned against drinking camel urine (apparently it is still used for medicinal purposes). We can quite enthusiastically certify that camel urine will permanently stay out of our menu.

7) The WHO did state however, “Camel meat and camel milk are nutritious products that can continue to be consumed after pasteurization, cooking, or other heat treatments,”.

8) People who have had no contact with camels but have had contact with sheep, cows and bats have contracted the virus.

9) It is recommended to wash your hands after direct contact with a camel.

10) Once a camel has been cleared of the virus, it must be quarantined from other camels. As the only safari company in the UAE operating on private property, Platinum Heritage can assure our guests that our camels are kept safely, comfortably and exclusively inside the grounds of a very secure venue.

The above is a collection of research I have obtained. I am not a Scientist and would still advocate the use of caution around camels which have not been cleared by the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL).

Regards,

Adam McEwan
Managing Director
Platinum Heritage

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