People at High Risk of Swine Flu Warned to Avoid Hajj

Saudi Arabian officials advised to have facility available to isolate pilgrims with flu symptoms
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Public health consultants to the Saudi Arabian government have recommended that pilgrims in categories at high risk for H1N1 swine who are planning to take part in the 2009 Hajj should postpone their participation until another year, according to a paper published online Nov. 14 in The Lancet.

Ziad A. Memish, M.D., of the Ministry of Health in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and colleagues describe how representatives of global public health agencies met with Saudi Arabian public health officials to share information about the public health challenges of mass gatherings, and also to review Saudi Arabia's preparedness plans.

The meeting resulted in a number of recommendations for before and during the 2009 Hajj, including the recommendation to certain high-risk groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, children, and those with chronic diseases to postpone their participation in the Hajj. The authorities were also advised to have a 200- to 500-bed facility available to isolate any pilgrims with symptoms of influenza-like disease, and the consultants made a range of other recommendations for screening and surveillance, testing, infection control and treatment of H1N1 swine flu.

"Noteworthy is that the recommendations generated during this meeting were based on the current status of the pandemic and therefore might need revision, dependent on the changes in virus characteristics and epidemiology of infections with the 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 virus," the authors write.

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