Swine flu alert for Hajj pilgrims

  • Agencies
  • |
  • Updated: Aug 03, 2009 16:35 IST

Saudi Arabia has launched a probe into its first death from the H1N1 Virus as it tries to prevent a swine flu epidemic before millions of pilgrims descend for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, health officials said recently.

The patient, a 30-year-old man, was admitted to a hospital in the city of Dammam last week. He died on Saturday.

The man had never traveled outside the country and had no communicable diseases, said Saudi Ministry Health spokesman Khalid Al-Marghalani.

Last week, Arab health ministers held an emergency summit in Egypt to discuss the issue. Guidelines were issued, banning various groups from participating in this year's Hajj -- children under 12, adults over 65 and people with chronic diseases. Saudi Arabia recommended that pregnant women stay home as well.

The country has ordained a national plan to combat a pandemic, and the plan states clearly the steps to be followed to 'trace any suspect or disease contractor,' according to the health ministry.

In the past few days, a debate about the swine flu virus has erupted in the Middle East. Of particular concern is how to keep it from spreading among the many visitors expected in Saudi Arabia during this year's Hajj -- a pilgrimage required of Muslims at least once in their lives.

 While Arab governments are said to be in agreement on this new swine-flu related directive, clerics here aren't happy saying that it goes against the eligibility criteria of Islamic belief.


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