Research Highlights

Fears of H1N1 in Hajj

Published online 15 February 2010

Mohammed Yahia

Amid the heightened fear of further spread of the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus, researchers who gathered to analyse its effect on the Hajj, which is the Muslim annual pilgrimage, recommended encouraging people at risk of severe disease to postpone attending this year.

People most at risk include pregnant women, individuals with chronic diseases and the elderly.

The researchers, along with World Health Organization (WHO) representatives, were tasked with putting together a clear, comprehensive plan to address infectious diseases at what is one of the most diverse and dense gatherings in the world.

They also recommended setting up an isolation facility that can hold 200–500 people to segregate any pilgrims showing influenza-like symptoms on arrival in Saudi Arabia, in the absence of sustained community transmission. Individuals there should have easy access to face masks, hand gels and tissues.

Other recommendations for control of the epidemic included educating pilgrims on health issues and behavioural measures, and providing them with personal hygiene kits.

Finally, researchers stressed the importance of preparing surveillance and screening equipment at airports to check for elevated temperatures and influenza symptoms. Screening should be part of an extended, on-the-ground operation reporting to a central command facility.


  1. Memish, Z. al. Establishment of public health security in Saudi Arabia for the 2009 Hajj in response to pandemic influenza A H1N1. The Lancet 374, 1786-1791 (2009) | Article |