- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Haj pilgrims given health checks to prevent disease spread.
- Date: 19th October 2012
- Summary: PASSENGERS ARRIVING
- Embargoed: 3rd November 2012 12:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Health,Religion,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA7VQYE9H0Y2VAC3HQJDY8F87O9
- Story Text: Muslim haj pilgrims go through health checks as they arrive at Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia, where authorities are taking precautions to prevent the spread of a new strain of coronavirus, during the pilgrimage. At least two million worshippers are expected to attend this year's Haj.
More than two million Muslim pilgrims are expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia for the annual haj pilgrimage which begins next week.
This year, Saudi authorities are taking extra precautions to prevent disease spreading among pilgrims, after a Qatari man who had travelled to the country was infected with a new strain of coronavirus, which is related to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus.
Symptoms include fever, cough and breathing difficulties.
The ministry for public health said last month it was screening people coming into the country, and taking samples in order to find out if there were any apparent symptoms, not just for the virus but also for a host of other diseases.
"About 896,000 pilgrims have arrived so far. We've provided health care to those who needed it, be it preventive or curative. In this facility, there are more than 630 medical workers, technical and administrative staff serving the pilgrims," explained the director of the control centre at King Abdulaziz airport, Saleh Al-Ghamdi.
There are two clinical examinations rooms and a large holding area dedicated to assessing pilgrims at the airport, according to the Eurosurveillance website, published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). It also says that pilgrims have their immunisation status checked and are given the recommended medicines.
The medical teams check pilgrims for diseases including influenza, yellow fever, cholera, polimyelitis, viral haemorrhagic fevers and meningoccoccal disease.
"Regarding the coronavirus virus, we haven't come across a single case, thank God," said the preventative supervisor at the Ministry of Health, Fahad Al-Ghazoli. "The disease is under control and there are no suspected cases of this disease. There are cases of regular flu, but not coronavirus. It is a sophisticated virus, but the situation is under control, and the pilgrims are in good health, and there are no suspected cases," he said.
The new virus shares some of the symptoms of SARS, which emerged in China in 2002 and killed around a tenth of 8,000 people it infected worldwide. So far scientists do not know how contagious the new strain is, or whether or not it spreads by contact between people.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) - which last month urged health workers everywhere to report patients with acute respiratory infection, who may have been in Saudi Arabia - said it had been working closely with Saudi authorities on health measures for the haj.
The health organisation has not recommended any travel restrictions with the new virus, and the ECDC, based on available information, assesses the 'current risk as low'.
The haj pilgrimage runs from October 24-29.
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