Camel tests positive for Mers virus

Dromedary camel Preliminary tests suggest the camel was infected with the same virus as its owner

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A camel has tested positive for the Sars-like virus that emerged in the Middle East last year and has killed 64 people worldwide.

The animal had been owned by a person diagnosed with Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome) coronavirus, the Saudi health ministry said.

It remains unclear, however, if camels are responsible for passing the disease to humans.

Coronaviruses cause respiratory infections in humans and animals.

It is possible the virus is spread in droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Experts believe the virus is not very contagious - if it were, we would have seen more cases.

Globally, since September 2012, there have been 153 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Mers coronavirus.

The Saudi government statement said "preliminary" laboratory checks had proved positive.

The health ministry said it was working with the ministry of agriculture and laboratories to "isolate the virus and compare its genetic structure with that of the patient's".

If the virus carried by the camel and that of the patient "prove to be identical, this would be a first scientific discovery worldwide, and a door to identify the source of the virus", it added.

The World Health Organization, which has been monitoring the global situation, says there is currently no reason to impose any travel restrictions because of the virus.

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