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MERS Virus Found in Air in Camel Barn

Genetic analysis shows viral sample from barn matched strain found in barn owner and camel, study shows

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Genetic fragments of the deadly MERS virus were detected in the air of a barn where an infected camel was kept, a new study says.

The findings show the need for further studies to determine if Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) can be transmitted through the air, the researchers said.

Researchers collected air samples over three consecutive days from a camel barn owned by a 43-year-old male MERS patient who lived south of the town of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The man later died. One of the camels in the barn was later confirmed to have MERS.

The air samples contained genetic fragments of MERS that were identical to those detected in the infected camel and its owner, according to the study in the July 22 issue of the journal mBio.

The findings show the need for "further investigations and measures to prevent possible airborne transmission of this deadly virus," lead author Esam Azhar, said in a news release from the American Society for Microbiology. Azhar is the head of the Special Infectious Agents Unit at King Fahd Medical Research Center and associate professor of medical virology at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, according to the news release.

"This study also underscores the importance of obtaining a detailed clinical history with particular emphasis on any animal exposure for any [MERS] case, especially because recent reports suggest higher risk of [MERS] infections among people working with camels," he added.

According to the latest update released by the World Health Organization on June 16, there were 701 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS reported globally, including at least 249 deaths.

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