Camel milk n meat lovers undeterred by MERS

JUBAIL/RIYADH: SULTAN AL-SUGHAIR & SAEED AL-KHOTANI

Despite the spread of MERS coronavirus, many Saudis continue to drink fresh camel milk and many restaurants regularly serve dishes made with camel meat in spite of reports linking camels and virus infections.
Nasser Al-Jarallah, director general of the department of slaughterhouses and public markets in Jeddah, said 1,130 camels were slaughtered in Jeddah in January.
He pointed out that Jeddah municipality had focused its campaigns on camel milking sites and has closed a number of them in Al-Khumra district.
Some camel owners who sell milk in Al-Nairiya, 150 km north of Jubail, said that sales had not changed and that people were not bothered by the coronavirus reports. They said that the price of a bowl of camel milk was SR20.
According to a manager of a restaurant offering dishes made of camel meat, the price of a dish is about SR5 and the number of those eating camel meat has not been affected at all. “Most restaurants bring camel meat from the official slaughterhouses because that meat is free of disease,” he said.
The Health Ministry has warned against contact with camels and recommended well-cooked camel meat and boiling the milk before drinking.
Meanwhile, a recent study has shown that camels under the age of two years are the major source of corona infection from camels to humans. Abdul Aziz bin Saeed, assistant minister for public health, who heads the Health Ministry’s Command and Control Center (CCC), said the study, conducted in the UAE, showed that 96 percent in a group of 800 camels carried the virus.
“Camels under two pose the greatest risk of transmitting the virus to humans,” he said. “Therefore, people should be very careful in dealing with camels, especially newborns and those under two, in order to avoid infection.”
He urged health care workers to be alert for coronavirus at their facilities by constantly following the ministry’s recommendations. “Health care facilities failing to do so would be subject to severe punishment,” he said.