View Full Version : BOHICA? Saudis again

11-05-2009, 10:25 PM
Will the hajj be an incubator for swine flu?

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — As millions of Muslims begin arriving in Mecca for this year’s pilgrimage, Saudi officials face a unique challenge: how to prevent this sacred rite from becoming an inadvertent incubator and global transmitter of swine flu.

The conditions that will arise during the pilgrimage, or hajj, which officially begins in the last week of November, are the exact opposite of what health officials like to see.

An estimated 2.5 million people from up to 160 countries — including perhaps 15,000 from North America — will walk, pray and eat in close proximity to each other for several days. They will touch the same religious objects and sleep in crowded tent cities. Some, inevitably, will arrive carrying the new virus strain, H1N1.

Unable to alter these conditions, Saudi health officials have been working feverishly for months to minimize the risks. It has been a delicate balance between maintaining unrestricted movement for one of Islam’s holiest rites, and imposing measures to retard rampant transmission of the virus.


Epidemiologists are watching swine flu carefully to detect if it blends with other strains or mutates into an even newer, more resilient strain that could produce more deadly outbreaks. Large, dense concentrations of people such as the pilgrimage create conditions for such mutations. And pilgrims who become infected during the hajj could bring it home, triggering new outbreaks.


Al Marghalani said the government also highly recommends prospective pilgrims get seasonal flu shots. And if a country has received swine flu vaccine in enough time to inoculate pilgrims before they depart for Mecca, the Saudis may require they be vaccinated prior to getting a visa.
However, few countries are in that position. An article in Science magazine on hajj preparations written by Memish and CDC staff noted that because of manufacturing delays, as of Oct. 22, only four countries had indicated they planned to vaccinate their pilgrims.

rest of two page article:


11-05-2009, 10:35 PM
Perfect place for a Tsunami!

11-05-2009, 10:40 PM
Perfect place for a Tsunami!