MERS Virus Symptoms Being Spread By Muslims Drinking Camel Urine?

Patrick Frye

Some people believe the MERS virus outbreak is being spread by Muslims drinking camel urine, or by using camel byproducts as part of foods, cosmetics, and other products commonly sold in the Middle East.

In a related report by The Inquisitr, the first case of a the MERS virus in an American was confirmed by the CDC earlier this month. The worst part is that a MERS virus epidemic could potentially be deadly since there is no cure for the MERS virus as of now.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a coronavirus like SARS, which killed hundreds of people after first appearing in 2002. MERS virus symptoms have been detected in 438 people in Saudia Arabia alone, and about one third of them have died so far. In response to the deadly threat, World Health Organization (WHO) officials have asked people to wear protective gloves and to thoroughly cook camel meat and boil camel milk. But with many visitors expected to visit the nation in July for Ramadan, the risk of contracting the MERS virus is considered to be a public threat.

Now the drinking of camel urine is based upon a verse in the Hadith, one of the Muslim holy books that complement the Koran. The section reads in English:

"Some people of 'Ukl or 'Uraina tribe came to Medina and its climate did not suit them. So the Prophet ordered them to go to the herd of (Milch) camels and to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). So they went as directed and after they became healthy..."

As an example of this tradition, I would suggest checking out these videos (warning, the second video may be considered graphic):

Unfortunately, Saudia Arabia could potentially be hesitant to investigate whether or not camel urine is spreading the MERS virus due to the political and religious sensitivity of the subject. But in reports about the SARS coronavirus,the WHO specifically mention that the "virus is stable in faeces(and urine) at room temperature for at least 1-2 days." If the MERS virus functions in a similar fashion, it is possible that reducing the spread of the virus in humans could be accomplished by ensuring products that use camel urine in addition to unpasteurized camel milk and camel cheese are sanitized or at least checked for the virus before being consumed.

[UPDATE] The WHO has specifically updated their documentation with the recommendation that people should avoid drinking camel urine:

"[P]eople should not drink camel urine, which is reportedly used for medicinal purposes by some in the Middle East. The WHO advice was echoed yesterday by an advisory from the Saudi agriculture ministry, in what appeared to be a first in a country where camels are culturally important and revered animals."