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- The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene,
No Serologic Evidence of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Infection among Camel Farmers Exposed to Highly Seropositive Camel Herds: A Household Linked Study, Kenya, 2013
High seroprevalence of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS‐CoV) among camels has been reported in Kenya and other countries in Africa. To date, the only report of MERS-CoV seropositivity among humans in Kenya is of two livestock keepers with no known contact with camels. We assessed whether persons exposed to seropositive camels at household level had serological evidence of infection. In 2013, 760 human and 879 camel sera were collected from 265 households in Marsabit County. Data on human and animal demographics and type of contact with camels were collected. Human and camel sera were tested for anti‐MERS‐CoV IgG using a commercial enzyme‐linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test. Human samples were confirmed by plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT). Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with seropositivity. The median age of persons sampled was 30 years (range: 5–90) and 50% were males. A quarter (197/760) of the participants reported having had contact with camels defined as milking, feeding, watering, slaughtering, or herding. Of the human sera, 18 (2.4%) were positive on ELISA but negative by PRNT. Of the camel sera, 791 (90%) were positive on ELISA. On univariate analysis, higher prevalence was observed in female and older camels over 4 years of age (P < 0.05). On multivariate analysis, only age remained significantly associated with increased odds of seropositivity. Despite high seroprevalence among camels, there was no serological confirmation of MERS‐CoV infection among camel pastoralists in Marsabit County. The high seropositivity suggests that MERS‐CoV or other closely related virus continues to circulate in camels and highlights ongoing potential for animal‐to‐human transmission.