Saudi downplays impact of mystery virus on Hajj

September 25, 2012

Saudi health authorities downplayed Tuesday the impact of a possible outbreak of a virus from the family of deadly SARS on its forthcoming Hajj pilgrimage, stressing that the cases remain rare.

Pilgrims have begun to arrive in Saudi Arabia for the ritual that represents the world's largest annual gathering as some two million faithful are expected to descend on the Muslim holy city of Mecca for the hajj which peaks in late October.

"There have been two cases of flu over a period of time. This is normal," said health ministry spokesman Khaled al-Mirghalani.

"There are no changes to the conditions put by the health ministry to pilgrims," he said, adding that authorities remain vigilant.

The undersecretary for preventive medicine at the Saudi health ministry, Ziyad Memish, said the "virus has been in the kingdom for three months."

He, however, insisted the situation was "stable and no new cases have been recorded." Memish said the kingdom is not planning to impose new preventive measures on pilgrims.

The virus has caused the death of a Saudi national and has left a Qatari man in serious conditions at a London hospital, said the (WHO).

The 49-year-old Qatari was admitted to an in Doha on September 7 suffering from and kidney failure before being transferred to Britain by air ambulance on September 11, the WHO said.

The WHO confirmed the illness was in the coronavirus family but was not SARS, or , which swept out of China in 2003, killing more than 800 people worldwide.

"This is not SARS, it will not become SARS, and it is not SARS-like," said Gregory Haertl, a WHO spokesman in Geneva, pointing out that what sets the apart was that it caused rapid .

Qatar's top health authority announced on Monday that no other cases have been reported in the Gulf state, apart from the citizen who fell ill in Saudi Arabia.

The head of the country's public health authority, Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani, said the infected Qatari had "been treated in Qatar for two months before being transferred to London."

Last year, nearly three million Muslim pilgrims performed the hajj, which represents one of the five pillars of Islam and must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all those Muslims who are able to do so.

Explore further: Qatari with mystery virus still in critical condition: WHO

Related Stories

Qatari with mystery virus still in critical condition: WHO

September 25, 2012
A Qatari man suffering from a new respiratory virus from the same family as the deadly SARS remains in critical condition, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday.

New SARS-like virus detected in Middle East (Update 3)

September 24, 2012
Global health officials are closely monitoring a new respiratory virus related to SARS that is believed to have killed at least one person in Saudi Arabia and left a Qatari citizen in critical condition in London.

2011 health conditions for travel to Mecca (Hajj) pilgrimage published

August 23, 2011
Elsevier, the world's leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, announced today that the Saudi Ministry of Health has published its 2011 health conditions for travelers to the ...

Recommended for you

Screening could catch a quarter of hip fractures before they happen

December 15, 2017
Community screening for osteoporosis could prevent more than a quarter of hip fractures in older women - according to new research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

New cellular approach found to control progression of chronic kidney disease

December 15, 2017
Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that extracellular vesicles - tiny protein-filled structures - isolated from amniotic fluid stem cells (AFSCs) can be used to effectively slow the progression of kidney damage ...

Testing shows differences in efficacy of Zika vaccines after one year

December 15, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers with members from Harvard Medical School, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Bioqual Inc. and MIT has found that the efficacy of the three types of Zika vaccines currently ...

How to regulate fecal microbiota transplants

December 15, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A small team of researchers at the University of Maryland, some with affiliations to the Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System, has written and published a Policy Forum piece in the journal Science ...

Urine test developed to test for tuberculosis

December 14, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has developed a urine test that can be used to detect tuberculosis (TB) in human patients. In their paper published in Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

40 years after first Ebola outbreak, survivors show signs they can stave off new infection

December 14, 2017
Survivors of the first known Ebola outbreak, which occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976, may be key to development of vaccines and therapeutic drugs to treat future outbreaks, according to a new study ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.