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Posted On: 18 December 2013 02:08 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:13 pm

Animals in Qatar to be tested for Mers virus soon

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Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health (SCH) and the Ministry of Environment will soon begin a nationwide study and testing of animals, especially those being imported into the country, in a bid to trace the mode of transmission of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (Mers-CoV) which has so far infected nine people in Qatar, causing four deaths. Since the virus was first discovered in Qatar last year, a total of 4,323 suspected cases have been checked at the Hamad Medical Corporation’s virology lab so far, it was announced yesterday. The proposed study is coming on the heels of the recent discovery of the Mers-CoV in three camels in a herd of 14 and a sheep on a farm in the Shahaniya area from where two people had contracted the virus. Plans are afoot to acquire kits from international labs for testing the Mers-CoV in laboratories in Qatar for quicker diagnosis and on-time identification of the deadly virus. Samples of those who tested positive to the virus in Qatar were sent to an international lab in the Netherlands to further confirm and isolate the virus sub-zero types. It is expected that the study in Qatar will help provide answers to many questions posed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), including how people are becoming infected with the virus and the extent of animal-to-person and person-to-person transmission. Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 160 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Mers-CoV, including 68 deaths. All of the infections either occurred in or have links to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Oman and Kuwait. “The SCH is collaborating with the Ministry of Environment’s Animal Resources Department with the support of experts from the WHO, who will be arriving here this week or next, in a study that will attempt at finding out the proper analysis of the virus here,” SCH Public Health Department director Dr Mohamed al-Thani told a press conference yesterday. “The study can determine whether the virus can spread between animals to humans or vice versa. The first set of people who were in contact with the animals on the farm was closely monitored and their samples alongside those of the camels have been sent to a virology facility in Holland and we are awaiting further confirmation of their findings,” he explained. Animal Resources Department Veterinary epidemiologist Dr Nazem Ghobashy said that as a precautionary measure, the 14 camels on the farm had already been isolated. “All camels were asymptomatic or with mild symptoms when samples were taken and remained so during the following 40 days. All contacts of the two confirmed human cases, as well as the other worker employed in this barn, have been screened and laboratory tests were all negative for Mers-CoV,” he said. The official added that testing facilities would be made available at the ports of entry of animals and birds in the future. Present at the press conference were SCH Communicable Diseases Control section manager Dr Mohamed al-Hajri, Surveillance and Outbreak section head Dr Hamad Eid al-Romaihi, Animal Resources Department director Farhoud Hadi al-Hajri and MoE Chief Industrial Inspection engineer Khalid Abdulla al-Yafei.