The number of MERS cases is increasing. The number has risen from 575 to 688 in the worst afflicted country, Saudi Arabia, and continues to show up in pockets in areas of the world less affected, including Algeria and the United States. As of June 4, WHO reported 681 laboratory-confirmed MERS cases and 204 deaths from the disease.

Professional health care experts assure that, at this point, the general public does not need to worry about the illness. If you have traveled to the Middle East, where the disease is rampant, you are much more likely to contract the disease, which is spread person-to-person. The symptoms are flu-like, including fever, cough, shortness of breath. Those thought to have contracted the virus are put in negative-pressure rooms and masked immediately in order to prevent further outbreak.

Recent findings have discovered the virus’ possible origins: camel milk. Drinking camel milk is a widespread tradition in the Middle East, and the Qatari government is urging everyone to boil the milk before consumption.

Hospital breaches have also contributed to MERS’ spread. Saudi Arabia in particular has been highly criticized for its lack of proper care in hospitals, which allowed the virus to further spread. The Saudi health ministry has put in more strict measures, and WHO has been “diligently” following up on reports of the disease.

Until then, the virus continues to increase in the Middle East. With a 30% mortality rate, the disease is spreading rapidly in other, more malnourished parts of the world. While there is still not a vaccine for the virus, the CDC has released prevention methods against contracting the disease, including washing your hands with soap and water often, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and/or sneeze, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and avoiding intimate contact with sick persons.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: ECDC, Health Map, NY Daily News, Science Mag, Seacoast Online
Photo: Science News


USAID is partnering with Somalia groups to form the Camel Milk Value Chain Development project. This project is part of the U.S. President’s Feed the Future Initiative in Ethiopia. Feed the Future is a project started by the Obama Administration that focuses on helping countries become self-sustainable through agriculture reforms and improvements. The goal of the Camel Milk Development project is to improve the production of camel milk and to make it more marketable and competitive in Ethiopian communities.

The camel milk initiative is projected to benefit 50,000 “targeted households” in the country. Abdifatah Mohamud Hassan, Somali Regional State Vice President, said, “The Camel Milk Value Chain Development project is an innovative project that addresses cultural wealth of the pastoralists and contributes to the Ethiopia Agricultural Growth and Transformation Plan.”

Once the project is underway, local farmers will be educated on camel productivity, which includes breeding, better feed, and improvements to the camels’ health. The last aspect of this strategy to increase productivity will be a main focus as USAID trains more animal health care workers. Another goal of the organization is improved camel milk quality. This will happen through extensive trainings that teach workers about proper sanitation.

Finally, USAID hopes to create a better market for camel milk by connecting local milk markets with larger milk networks. This will generate a more stable market for farmers, negating some of the uncertainty and stress that goes along with the agriculture sector. Along with a stronger market, USAID will improve hygiene, food safety standards, and infrastructure.

Given Somalia’s unpredictable weather patterns that often include drought, camels could prove to be a vital source of nutrients for a majority of the country. The USAID Ethiopia Mission Director, Dennis Weller, has even called camels the “animal of the future.” As camel milk becomes more common, those living in Somalia will experience better food security as well as economic independence.

– Mary Penn

Source: USAID
Photo: Mercy Corps