Disease warning over Hajj travel

2013-07-17 07:42
An aerial view shows Muslim pilgrims walking around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque of the holy city of Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimage rituals. (Fayez Nureldine, AFP)

An aerial view shows Muslim pilgrims walking around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque of the holy city of Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimage rituals. (Fayez Nureldine, AFP)

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Mecca - Saudi Arabia is asking pilgrims to cover their mouths with a mask while in crowded places - or risk spreading a deadly disease.

CNN Travel reports Muslim pilgrims are being warned about the relatively new Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has hit Saudi Arabia almost exclusively.

Visits to the holy city of Mecca usually take place during the holy month of Ramadan, which started last week. In four months time millions of Muslim pilgrims will also perform the annual Hajj, with multitudes headed to the same holy places at the same time.  It's a perfect scenario for catching and spreading the disease, according to the state-run SPA news agency.

More than 50% of those diagnosed have died

MERS is caused by the coronavirus and is said to wreak havoc on the respiratory systems of those who contract it. Of the 81 infected worldwide, 45 have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) said Friday.

Of the total cases, 66 were in Saudi Arabia, where 38 people succumbed to it.

It mainly affects older men, the CDC said. So far, there is little to indicate that it could become the kind of deadly pandemic SARS was, though it is caused by a related virus.


Take precautions while on Hajj

All Muslims must undertake the Hajj journey at least once in their lifetime, and the government is telling them to add some preventative health requirements to their spiritual rituals. People with challenged immune systems should avoid travel to the birthplace of Islam for now, the Saudi Health Ministry said.  This includes people with chronic diseases such as diabetes and those infected with HIV.

Use common sense recipe similar to stopping the spread of a cold:


- Wash hands, especially after coughing and sneezing
- Throw used tissues in the trash
- Don't touch your eyes, nose and mouth while in public places
- Health Ministry advises wear a surgical mask while in crowded locations

Have you been to Mecca recently, tell us about it by emailing Info@news24travel.com or come join our News24 travel community on Facebook.
Read more on:    saudi arabia  |  mecca  |  hajj  |  lifestyle  |  travel international  |  health
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