Animal handlers more prone to Mers virus, reveals study

Animal handlers more prone to Mers virus, reveals study

Dubai - The study comes at a time when the region reports a resurgence in the number of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) cases.

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Asma Ali Zain

Published: Sun 28 Apr 2019, 11:24 PM

Last updated: Mon 29 Apr 2019, 7:13 PM

Camel salesmen with diabetes working in a live animal market in Abu Dhabi were found to be the highest among the population who tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (Mers-CoV), according to a recently published study.
The study comes at a time when the region reports a resurgence in the number of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) cases, especially in Saudi Arabia.
The research team that conducted the seroprevalence study along with the US Centres for Disease Control, published its findings last week in an early online edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Worker seroprevalence was tested in two slaughterhouses and one live-animal market in Abu Dhabi during 2014-2017 and an epidemiologic survey administered in 2016 and 2017. During 2014-2017, the team sampled 100-235 workers, and 6-19 per cent were seropositive for Mers-CoV at each of the three sampling rounds.
On multivariable analyses, working as a camel salesman, handling live camels or their waste, and having diabetes were associated with seropositivity among all workers, whereas handling live camels combined with either administering medications or cleaning equipment was associated with seropositivity among market workers.
The goals of the team were to sift out specific risk factors that seem more likely to lead to Mers-CoV transmission to help guide steps to prevent infections in people and to pinpoint risk groups that would benefit from a future vaccine.
Investigators also administered a survey to gather information about worker demographics, travel history, consumption of raw camel products, camel-related work tasks, personal protective equipment use, and handwashing practices.
Results of the study
Among all workers, Mers-CoV seroprevalence was especially high for certain occupations, especially camel salesmen (49 per cent) and animal or waste transporters (22 per cent). Self-reported diabetes was another factor linked to being seropositive, which fits with earlier reports of underlying health conditions as a risk factor for Mers-CoV infection.
Among other findings, Mers-CoV was detected in market camels during the study period, and one worker seroconverted, hinting at active transmission from camels to people.
The group wrote in the study: "Taken collectively, our findings suggest an underestimated prevalence of human Mers-CoV infection in settings where the virus is circulating among camels, probably resulting from camel-to-human transmission."
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at the end of March 2019, a total of 2,399 laboratory-confirmed cases of Mers, including 827 associated deaths, were reported globally; the majority of these cases were reported from Saudi Arabia (2008 cases, including 749 related deaths. The UAE reported the highest number of cases between 2013-2014.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) said that since 2013, the UAE has reported 87 cases, majority of which was in 2016. "The strengthening of the infection control practices has resulted in prevention of hospital-acquired infection as the last incident was during 2016," said the spokesperson. "The last confirmed Mers-CoV case in the UAE was in May 2018.."
The spokesperson also said that the demographic and epidemiological characteristics of reported cases, when compared during the same corresponding period of 2013 to 2019, do not show any significant difference or change, except for the increase in the number of secondary cases and healthcare worker cases due to the current hospital outbreaks.
"The ministry, with the relevant partners, are implementing enhanced surveillance strategy to assure early detection of cases together with enhanced infection control and prevention to prevent secondary spread of infection," said the spokesperson.
"Other measures are applied by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. These include screening of camels moving across border crossings and application of preventive measures."
"Individuals in contact with camels are required to wear masks and apply personal hygiene to reduce the probability of infection," added the spokesperson.

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