scientists call for restrictions on contact with camels due to the health risk; understand

Scientists warn of risk of contact with hair during the World Cup in Qatar (Photo: Getty Images)

Scientists warn of risk of contact with hair during the World Cup in Qatar (Photo: Getty Images)

A trio of scientists from John Hopkins University in the United States, the University of Marseille in France, and the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Traveler’s Health in Switzerland, published an article in the scientific journal New Microbes and New Infections on contamination risks associated with the World Cup in Qatar.

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Among them, a warning for people at greater risk of worsening health, such as those with chronic diseases and immunosuppressed people, to avoid contact with camels, food derived from the animal or food that has not been properly cooked. This is due to the possibility of contamination with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), also caused by a coronavirus.

“MERS-CoV has caused multiple nosocomial outbreaks in Saudi Arabia and has caused a limited number of cases in Qatar and the pattern has been sporadic. Epidemiological data from Qatar showed the occurrence of 28 cases of MERS (incidence of 1.7 per 1,000,000 population) and most cases had a history of contact with camels. Thus, people at higher risk of developing severe disease are advised to avoid contact with dromedary camels, drink raw camel milk or camel urine, or eat meat that has not been properly cooked,” the scientists write.

MERS was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and has since caused nearly 1,000 deaths in 27 places. Most diagnoses are concentrated in the country where it was detected, but as camels are reservoirs of the virus, the researchers warn of the possibility that the size of the event favors the animals’ contact with people more susceptible to infection.

In addition to the alert about MERS, the article highlights the risks of the event, which estimates a total of 1.2 million visitors, at a time when two international health emergencies are occurring simultaneously: Covid-19 and monkeypox.

“The infectious disease risks associated with this year’s 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar are dominated by global concern over the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic with the emergence of new variants and the threat of vaccine (protection) evasion and the occurrence of monkeypox outbreaks in several countries. Although in recent months the trajectory of monkeypox cases points to decreasing numbers, this risk is still a significant challenge in the context of a football World Cup and possible sexual encounters”, report the researchers.

They point out, however, that the Ministry of Health of the host country is prepared to deal with occurrences and recommend that travelers are up to date with vaccinations, emphasizing that, although the risk is lower, there is still the possibility of spreading other diseases such as measles and hepatitis A and B.

“To mitigate the aforementioned risks, visitors to the tournament must be up to date with their routine vaccinations and observe food and beverage safety rules,” they wrote.

A similar alert, about the same health problems, was recently issued by the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). In addition to highlighting the importance of the vaccine, including against the flu, the agency highlighted hygiene measures that can prevent contamination.

“Standard hygiene measures are recommended, including regular hand washing with soap, drinking safe water (bottled, chlorinated or boiled before consumption); eat well-cooked food and carefully wash fruits and vegetables with clean water before consumption; and staying at home or in a hotel room when sick,” says the center’s Communicable Disease Threats Report.

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