Maintaining Health Of Pilgrims During Hajj Requires International Coordination Among WHO, Saudi Arabia, Other Nations
Science: Health of the Hajj
Ziad A. Memish, professor at the College of Medicine at Alfaisal University & Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Hospital, Ministry of Health, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and a professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University
“For five days, starting 19 August, Saudi Arabia will host the Hajj, the world’s largest annual religious pilgrimage, where people from over 180 countries will converge on Mecca. Infectious disease transmission associated with this mass transnational movement of people is well known … Although major progress has been made over the past 30 years in Saudi Arabia and in pilgrimage countries, there is still much more to do to avoid a health catastrophe, given that the pilgrim quota may grow to 2.2 million by 2020. … Surveillance at entry and exit points could quickly improve disease detection. Likewise, travel services could ensure compliance with international health regulations at all departure and arrival ports. … It will also be important to create a stockpile of medicines and vaccines in the event of a disease outbreak. Such an endeavor will require investment by the World Health Organization and a multinational strategy that is coordinated by the Saudi Ministry of Health…” (8/10).