With world health officials scrambling to contain the outbreak of a deadly virus plaguing Saudi Arabia that research has suggested may originate in camels, some Saudi men have staged photos of themselves kissing their camels in defiance of public health warnings.
The Saudi Agriculture Ministry on Sunday advised those who handle camels to wear masks and protective gloves, while those who consume camel products should make sure the meat is cooked and milk boiled.
But the warnings didn’t stop one camel handler from posting a video on social media where he is seen face mask-free, jovially kissing and hugging his camels and saying according to Al Arabiya, “Look at me! Sneeze, sneeze! They say there’s Corona in this.”
By “Corona,” he was referring to the MERS coronavirus.
The man then said of one of his camels, “She says no. Is there Corona in you? She says no.”
In another undated photo that is being circulated in the Saudi media, a different man is seen kissing a camel on the mouth. That photo can be seen at this link.
A second case of the deadly virus which first emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 appeared in the United States earlier this week.
Since its first appearance, at least 400 people have been infected, and more than 100 people have died, the vast majority in Saudi Arabia.
A Reuters photographer who visited a camel market in the Saudi capital Riyadh saw only one out of dozens who worked there wearing a mask.
A camel farmer Abdul Juraiwi Al Qahani, whom Gulf News described as well-known, told the Saudi news site Al Weam that he wanted the health ministry “to produce a single evidence that camels were the source of the coronavirus” and asked government officials to review their data on the camel links to the illness.
The Saudi government on Tuesday announced five new deaths from MERS, as well as four new infections.
In an effort to contain the virus, the Saudi Agriculture Ministry said it plans to attach electronic chips to all camels to keep closer tabs on their origins.
Here is the video of the Saudi mocking the possible link between camels and MERS: