MERS tests for camels and livestock

Camels are seen after the 20km camel race during the opening of the Janadriya festival near Riyadh, in this April 3, 2013 file photo. (Reuters)

Camels are seen after the 20km camel race during the opening of the Janadriya festival near Riyadh, in this April 3, 2013 file photo. (Reuters)

The Kingdom has started testing camels in the country for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), according to Minister of Agriculture Fahd Balghuneim.

Speaking at a workshop in Riyadh recently on registering and numbering livestock in the country, Balghuneim said the ministry would start testing all livestock in the Kingdom starting next week to make sure they do not have MERS.

He said there would be coordination with the Saudi Wildlife Authority to take samples from wild animals kept in nature reserves to determine the level of coronavirus infection in the Kingdom.

He said there is no suitable equipment to conduct speedy tests for coronavirus. Officials have to take blood or mucus samples, which takes a long time.

Balghuneim confirmed that there are no tests for the coronavirus at quarantine sites in countries exporting animals to Saudi Arabia.

He said the measure is part of the ministry’s program to control the spread of infectious diseases. Livestock entering the Kingdom just before Ramadan would be quarantined and vaccinated in exporting countries.

“We started registering and numbering livestock last year in Um Raqaiba. We started with camels belonging to Prince Mishal bin Abdulaziz to encourage other camel owners to do the same. Next week we will speed up the operation. The numbering of livestock will include sheep and camels in Badia through contractors working for the Ministry of Agriculture,” he said.

Balghuneim said centers in exporting countries quarantine their livestock for a few days, vaccinate and then send them to the Kingdom, as required by the Saudi government.
When the livestock reaches the Kingdom, samples are taken. If the animals are disease-free, they are allowed entry into the Kingdom. If they have diseases, they are quarantined. Those animals that cannot be treated are put down.

He said the ministry is investigating other ways to test camels and livestock bound for the Kingdom.

The minister said the Kingdom does not import live cows from countries identified by the World Health Organization to have mad cow disease.

“We are responsible for managing livestock, and to get accurate information we need to have an inventory of livestock in the Kingdom.” He said numbering methods for inventories are used in many countries.





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