Editorials

Hajj and the risk of influenza

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39052.628958.BE (Published 07 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1182
  1. A Rashid Gatrad, consultant paediatrician1,
  2. Shuja Shafi, consultant microbiologist2,
  3. Ziad A Memish, consultant in infectious diseases3,
  4. Aziz Sheikh, professor of primary care research and development ([email protected])4
  1. 1Manor Hospital, Walsall WS2 2PS
  2. 2Clinical Microbiology and Health Protection Agency Collaborating Laboratory, Northwick Park Hospital, Middlesex HA1 3UJ
  3. 3Gulf Cooperation Council States Centre for Infection Control, King Abdulaziz Medical City, PO Box 22490, Riyadh 11426, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  4. 4Allergy and Respiratory Research Group, Division of Community Health Sciences, GP Section, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9DX

    The threat can no longer be ignored

    At the end of next month Saudi Arabia will again host the Hajj—the largest annual gathering in the world—which attracts more than two million pilgrims from almost every country on earth.1 2 For the individual pilgrim this is a deeply spiritual journey that represents the culmination of months if not years of preparation. From a public health perspective, however, such a gathering makes the possible rampant spread of the influenza virus and a global pandemic—which many experts believe is overdue—a potentially devastating prospect that has been inadequately prepared for.3

    Recent work highlighting the high rates of infection and carriage of influenza virus in pilgrims returning from Mecca has emphasised the need for internationally agreed strategies to minimise the risk of a pandemic.4 5 6 Such a strategy should centre on ways to prevent transmission, but must …

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