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Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens and foreign workers to wear masks and gloves when dealing with camels
Health says 86 samples test negative for MERS

 KUWAIT CITY, May 12, (Agencies): The Health Ministry had run tests on 86 samples with the results coming out as negative for Coronavirus, said a source here Monday. In an exclusive statement, Undersecretary at the Health Ministry Dr Qais Al-Dowairi said that the ministry was following up on updates released by the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding Coronavirus, noting that the committee assigned to deal with the virus had already met to evaluate the current situation. It is important to release media updates on Coronavirus, whether in print or by broadcast, said the official, adding that the committee decided to continue its efforts to inform the public of all developments. A second case of the dangerous virus, called MERS, has been found in the United States, health authorities said Monday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and CDC and Florida Department of Health are investigating the “imported” case and will release details during a press conference at 2 pm was, a CDC statement said. The United States announced its first case last week, in a healthcare worker who had traveled to Riyadh at the end of April. He was released from the hospital on Saturday and is considered “fully recovered,” the Indiana Health Department said. Middle East Respiratory Virus, or MERS, causes fever, cough and shortness of breath, and can be lethal particularly among older people and those with preexisting health problems.

Some 30 percent of the several hundred people infected with it have died, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus first emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and recent research has suggested it may originate in camels. According to the World Health Organization’s latest count on May 9, MERS has killed 145 people out of 536 lab-confirmed infections. The vast majority of cases have been in Saudi Arabia, but MERS has also been found in 16 other countries.

Most cases involved people who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia. The World Health Organization is planning to hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss the MERS crisis. Meanwhile, Saudi authorities have issued fresh warnings on how to handle the desert kingdom’s wealth of camels, thought to be the source of the mysterious MERS coronavirus in the Gulf state. With scientists still struggling to understand the illness and no vaccine or antiviral treatments available to combat its spread, Saudi authorities have introduced new guidelines to try to stem the trickle of new cases reported nearly every day. The agriculture ministry has urged Saudis handling camels to wear masks and gloves to avoid catching the disease, in a statement published in local media.

The warning came after scientific studies commissioned by the health ministry suggested a connection between camels and the virus. MERS is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that appeared in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died. Like SARS, it appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering coughing, breathing difficulties and a temperature. But MERS differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure. Earlier research had shown the virus was “extraordinarily common” in camels for at least 20 years and may have been passed directly from the animals to humans.

Camel meat must be cooked and its milk boiled before consumption, the agriculture ministry said, echoing recommendations from acting health minister Adel Fakieh following a visit by World Health Organisation experts last week. Former health minister Abdullah al- Rabiah warned last month against assuming that camels were behind the virus, insisting that “one should not jump to conclusions”. He was dismissed days later on April 21 without official explanation and replaced by Labour Minister Fakieh who immediately promised “transparency” in providing the public and media with information about MERS. The ministry now publishes a daily detailed bulletin on its website updating the numbers of MERS infections and deaths. Last week, Fakieh also announced the sacking of the head of Jeddah’s King Fahd Hospital, where a spike in MERS infections among medical staff sparked panic among the public.

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