Camels Test Positive for MERS Virus in Kenya


Camels in Kenya have tested positive for the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, according to studies.

Almost half of camels in parts of the country have been infected with the virus, which has already plagued parts of the Middle East and Asia. Kenya has one of the largest camel population in Africa, while the animals have been cited as a major source of the MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia, which spread as far as South Korea earlier this year.


Nearly 50% of camels in Kenya have MERS

The study was carried out by a team of scientists from the US, Kenya, New Zealand and Europe, who tested over 300 single humped camels, from nine different herds, in Laikipia County.

Their results found 47 percent of the camels tested positive for MERS antibodies, meaning they had come into contact with the virus. Camels have been a major host carrier of the virus in Saudi Arabia and, while most people become infected from human-to-human transmission, camels are believed to play some role in the infection between animals and humans.


Danger to humans still unclear

While the study shows a high presence of MERS among camels in Kenya, the danger to human’s is still unclear.

“The significance of this is not yet clear, because we don’t know if the virus is universally zoonotic,” says study author, Eric Fevre, in a statement. “While the risk of these camels spreading MERS to humans cannot yet be discounted, it appears to be, for now, very low as there have been no human cases diagnosed in Kenya.”

The MERS virus became a global headline earlier this year, after a South Korean man carried the virus home with him, from a business trip in Saudi Arabia – sparking the biggest MERS crisis outside of the Middle East.


Featured image:

Camels in Marsabit, Kenya” by Fredrick Onyango from Nairobi, Kenya – Camels. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.