Policy ForumPUBLIC HEALTH

Pandemic H1N1 and the 2009 Hajj

Science  13 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5955, pp. 938-940
DOI: 10.1126/science.1183210

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Summary

The annual Hajj pilgrimage of more than 2.5 million pilgrims from more than 160 countries is held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) (1) (see the figure). Hajj is a deeply spiritual journey undertaken by Muslims at least once in their lifetimes. Hajj-related infectious disease outbreaks in recent decades have focused attention on Hajj as a global public health security challenge of extraordinary dimensions (15). This past summer, a KSA–World Health Organization (WHO) consultation process developed the Jeddah recommendations on mitigation for the effects of the current pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus during the 2009 Hajj, which is the last week of November (6). Here, we outline some of the realities associated with meeting those recommendations and the most recent plans to help mitigate the transmission burden.