Middle East

Mers virus: Saudis warned to wear masks near camels

Masked man posing with camels, Saudi Arabia, 11 May 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Research has been focusing on the role of the camel in the spread of the virus

Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens to wear masks and gloves when dealing with camels so as to avoid spreading the deadly Mers virus.

The agriculture ministry advised people not to come into contact with camels unless necessary and to wash their hands if they did.

Saudia Arabia is the country by far most affected by Mers, with 133 deaths since the virus was detected in 2012.

Nearly 500 people in the kingdom have been infected.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mers is part of a large family of viruses

Mers - Middle East respiratory syndrome - has also spread to other countries in the Middle East.

The disease is a coronavirus, a large family of viruses that also includes the common cold and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome). It causes fever, pneumonia and kidney failure.

"It is advisable to wear protective gloves, especially when dealing with births or sick or dead (camels)," the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

It suggested boiling camel milk and only eating cooked camel meat.

The ministry's statement comes as research by health experts has focused on the role of the camel as a carrier of the virus.

The camel is a central part of traditional Saudi life and the authorities have only recently linked the outbreak to the animals.

But some farmers have mocked the official warnings, with one posting a video of himself hugging and kissing his camels, asking one to sneeze into his face.

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