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Saudi swine flu fears for hajj pilgrims

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Saudi swine flu fears for hajj pilgrims


Millions of Muslims are gathering in Mecca this week with the annual hajj pilgrimage facing a new threat. The concentration of so many people in one place provides a breeding ground for disease — particularly, this year, swine flu.

As believers prepare for their journey, health authorities around the world are taking precautions. Here in Paris every traveller is being checked for the virus before being allowed to board the plane.

Many carried masks and medicines to ward off the flu – at least four pilgrims are thought to have died of the virus since the start of this year’s hajj. Some countries have gone further — Tunisia has banned its citizens from making the hajj at all this year.

Saudi Arabia has urged young and old pilgrims and those already ill to stay away, and has installed detection devices at entry points to screen arrivals. Health Minister Dr Abdullah al-Rabeeah set the example, getting his swine flu vaccination in front of the cameras.
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