Avoid direct contact with camels when traveling to prevent MERS, CHP warns

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The Centre for Health Protection on Thursday warned members of the public to avoid direct contact with camels when traveling after an additional case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was reported to the World Health Organization by Oman on January 5.

According to the WHO, the additional case involves a male patient aged 60 with underlying illnesses. Camel racing exercises were found to have been conducted in the area of the patient's residence within the 14 days prior to his onset of symptoms.

The patient was admitted to hospital on January 2. He subsequently showed improvement and was discharged on January 16.

Latest WHO information has seen up to 2,603 cases of MERS reported so far, along with 935 deaths.

A CHP spokesperson said in view of countries in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, continuing to report MERS cases from time to time, travelers should refrain from going to farms, barns, or markets with camels and avoid contact with sick persons and animals, especially camels, birds or poultry.

“Most of the cases reported in the Middle East had a history of exposure to camels, consumption of camel milk, or contact with other MERS patients," the spokesperson said.

The CHP also strongly advises travel agents organizing tours to the Middle East to abstain from arranging camel rides and activities involving direct contact with camels, which are known risk factors for acquiring MERS-CoV.