May 11, 2014 12:55 pm

Saudi officials urge precautions among those who deal with camels as MERS toll rises

This undated file electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows novel coronavirus particles, also known as the MERS virus, colourized in yellow.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID - RML

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia on Sunday warned those dealing with camels to take precautions as the number of infections in the kingdom from a respiratory illness linked to the animals rises further.

The Ministry of Agriculture urged people who come in contact with camels to “exercise caution and follow preventive measures,” according to a report on the official Saudi Press Agency.

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READ MORE: WHO concerned by sharp rise in MERS cases

It said the ministry issued the advice after scientific studies commissioned by the Health Ministry proved a connection between camels and the virus that causes the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

The guidance came after the country reported six more deaths from MERS on Saturday. A total of 139 people have died and 480 have been confirmed to have contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia since it was discovered in 2012.

MERS belongs to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses that include both the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed some 800 people in a global outbreak in 2003. MERS can cause symptoms including fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure.

Scientists believe camels likely play a role in initial infections. The disease can then spread between people, but typically only when they are in close contact with one another, such as with infected patients and health-care workers.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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