Farmers who work daily with camels in Saudi Arabia are posting statements of open defiance to government recommendations to help curb the spread of the often fatal Middle East Respiratory Virus, or MERS.
According to GulfNews, the attitude represents one of the “formidable challenges” health authorities in the region face in their battle with MERS, which has claimed the lives of about one-third of the hundreds who been infected.
There are three reported cases in the U.S., including the nation’s first apparent case of infection from contact with another MERS patient.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an Indiana patient with MERS is a U.S. resident who had traveled from Saudi Arabia and was hospitalized several weeks ago.
Now the federal agency said an Illinois man has been diagnosed with the infection after “close contact with the Indiana MERS patient.”
The CDC warns Americans should be “washing their hands often, avoiding touching their face with unwashed hands; avoiding contact with people who appear sick; and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.”
In addition, for travelers in or near the Arabian Peninsula, the agency recommends that people pay attention to their health, and watch for fever and pneumonia or acute respiratory distress.
GulfNews reported Saudi officials have found the virus was “extraordinarily common” in camels, so people should “keep away from raw camel meat and milk and to avoid sick camels.”
But farmers there have posted clips of themselves hugging and kissing camels.
One, Abdul Juraiwi, disregarded the claim that camels could be the source of infection.
“Do sneeze in my face,” one said on video as he hugged one camel.
The CDC confirms that about 30 percent of MERS victims die, and “so far, all the cases have been linked to countries in the Arabian Peninsula.”