camel bites man
camel bites manCreative Commons/bee happy123

Despite fears over a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in view of the Haj pilgrimage that has brought two million Muslims to Saudi Arabia, many pilgrims continue to eat camel meat regardless of a health advisory. 

The kingdom's Ministry of Health had issued a warning against being in contact with camels after the animals were discovered to be the primary source of the MERS coronavirus.

However, meat from as many as 100 camels is being eaten per day by Haj pilgrims and staff as restaurants continue to serve the delicacy, Saudi Gazette reported citing a Mecca daily.

Saudi Arabia has banned camel slaughter this Eid al Adha due to an increase in MERS cases in the kingdom last month, with 19 deaths reported in a week.

The World Health Organisation cited camels as the main source of the infection among people, and said those handling the animals are at high risk of being infected.

However, some health experts have said that people eating camel meat are not at risk of catching the virus. "There are no health risks from eating camel meat at restaurants serving small camel meat. The real danger lies in getting in direct contact with people or animals having coronavirus. Generally, the situation is under control and there is no need to worry," an environment health official at Mecca told Saudi Gazette. 

Ahead of the Haj pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia had said that MERS cases were on the decline since August.

Since 2012, when MERS was first identified in Saudi Arabia, more than 1,231 cases have been reported, and there have been more than 520 deaths. 

Also read