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Mers virus detected in air samples from Saudi camel barn

Published on Jul 22, 2014 1:36 PM
Somali traders and their camels wait at the open air export market, on the outskirts of Somalia's capital Mogadishu in this June 7, 2014, file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Saudi scientists have found gene fragments of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) virus in air from a barn housing an infected camel and say this suggests the disease may be transmitted through the air.

Mers, a serious respiratory illness caused by a virus known as a coronavirus (CoV), has infected at least 850 people since it first emerged two years ago and killed at least 327 of them, according to latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The vast majority of human cases have been in Saudi Arabia, but isolated Mers cases have been reported across Europe and in Asia and the United States in people linked who have recently travelled in the Middle East.

Scientists are not sure of the origin of the virus, but several studies have linked it to camels and some experts think it is being passed to humans through close physical contact or through the consumption of camel meat or camel milk.

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