Camel Flu is threatening 1.2 million in Qatar. Should you be worried? A doctor answers

Dristi SharmaNovember 28, 2022 | 18:25 IST

Qatar World Cup 2022 is expected to draw at least 1.2 million fans, till mid-December. These 1.2 million people are now at risk of contracting Camel Flu, a disease deadlier than Covid-19 (kills up to a third of everyone who gets infected).


What is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) infection AKA Camel Flu? 

Dr Shyam Sundar, 75, from Assam, who is a physician for the last 50 years, spoke to dailyO and explained the disease. He says, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a virus transferred to humans from infected dromedary camels.

It is a zoonotic virus, which means it spreads between animals and humans, and it can be contracted by direct or indirect contact with infected animals. 
Human-to-human transmission is likely, but just a few cases have been reported.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Camel Flu can spread rapidly in mass gatherings, such as the Qatar World Cup. 


What does data say about Camel Flu? 

MERS-CoV has been identified in dromedary camels in several countries in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

  • In total, 27 countries have reported cases since 2012, leading to 858 known deaths due to the infection and related complications.    
  • Epidemiologic 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.  

What are the symptoms of Camel Flu? 

Dr Sundar says the symptoms of Camel Flu can be very similar to Covid, and those infected can also be asymptomatic. 

Some common symptoms of Camel Flu include fever, cough and shortness of breath and even diarrhoea. 

How can you avoid getting Camel Flu? 

A recent journal called, Infection risks associated with the 2022 FIFA world cup in Qatar written by researchers Jaffar A. Al-Tawfiq, Philippe Gautret, Patricia Schlagenhauf suggests people in Qatar should:

  • Avoid contact with dromedary camels
  • Drinking raw camel milk or camel urine,
  • Eating meat that has not been properly cooked. 
Photo: Dromedary camels

Is there a vaccine for Camel Flu? According to the WHO,  no vaccine or specific treatment for MERS is currently available. However, there are several vaccines for MERS in development. Treatment based on a person's clinical condition is given. It could range from oxygen therapy or intensive health care unit.

These researchers also warn that the Qatar World Cup can soon be a hotspot for many diseases apart from Camel Flu.

Last updated: November 28, 2022 | 18:25
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