Elderly and chronically ill Muslims should not perform the hajj pilgrimage to curb the spread of the MERS coronavirus, Saudi Arabian health officials warned over the weekend.
So far, MERS, which stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, has killed 38 people in Saudi Arabia and another seven globally. More than 80 cases of the disease have been confirmed,according to the World Health Organization.
The hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia — one of the five pillars of Islam that's considered mandatory during the lifetime of a practicing Muslim — is one of the largest mass gatherings in the world, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This year, the gathering will take place from approximately Oct. 13 to 18, attracting 3 million Muslims from around the world, including an estimated 11,000 Americans, according to the CDC.
The Saudi health ministry is recommending that elderly people, as well as those with chronic heart, kidney and lung diseases and diabetes, those with immune deficiencies, children and pregnant women postpone their pilgrimages. Health officials described the recommendations as preventive measures in the fight to contain the SARS-like virus.
More than half of the people who have contracted MERS have died, according to the WHO, making it an alarming infection. It can also incubate in the human body for at least nine days, researchers have found, which makes it particularly difficult to track, treat and stop the disease. To date, neither the WHO nor the CDC have recommended any MERS-related travel restrictions. But both organizations have asked doctors to monitor respiratory infection patterns closely.
Earlier this year, representatives from the WHO called the disease a "grave concern." "We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat," Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, said in a speech to the WHO assembly in Geneva in May. "We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond."
source : new york daily