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Dangers of rearing camels and other stories . . .

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 04 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5331

“Fret not with that impatient hoof, snuff not the breezy wind” is an immortal line from Caroline Norton’s poem “The Arab’s Farewell to His Steed” (circa 1850). The steed the Arab was parting from here was his horse, but it is possible that Arabs may have to bid farewell to their camels too if they are shown to be important vectors of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The investigation, reported in Lancet Infectious Diseases (2013, doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70164-6), found neutralising antibodies to MERS-CoV in 100% of Omani dromedaries, but this is not definitive proof that they are the main source of human infection. Besides, humans have had to put up with the risk of disease from camels for as long as they have kept them (possibly 4000 years): these even toed ungulates can carry brucellosis, trypanosomiasis, and a range of other transmissible parasites. And their impatient hooves have even snuffed some of their owners, although not …

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