Mecca Pilgrims Urged to be Mindful of MERS


The World Health Organization has confirmed Saudi Arabia’s most recent case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Bringing the total to 81 confirmed MERS infections worldwide.

Saudi Arabian health officials have urged pilgrims coming from countries all over the world to wear face masks and to be mindful of personal hygiene, especially in crowded places, in an effort to prevent further global spread of the coronavirus. This newly classified respiratory virus has claimed 44 lives thus far, according to a Global Alert and Response statement the WHO released on July 7.

The Saudi Arabian ministry of health has encouraged the chronically ill and elderly to postpone their trip to the kingdom’s epicenter, ¬†for fear of infection and further spreading throughout the world.

Neither the World Health Organization, nor the Saudi Arabian ministry have any any visa or travel restrictions in place as a result of the virus.In the statement released, the WHO implores countries to keep a watchful eye over any “unusual patterns” and keep sharp “surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI).”

Travel and trade restrictions were also said to not, at this point, be necessary and that no special entry and exit screening was needed.

The World Health Organization’s figures released on July 7 record a total of 44 deaths, 38 of those located in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A global total of 80 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS infection has been reported to the World Health Organization.

The new virus is not yet fully understood by the professionals in the field. It is known to be related to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), belonging to a family of viruses that usually cause influenza or the common cold. As it is known now, the coronavirus attacks the respiratory system and causes lung infection. Patients infected with MERS experience fever, coughing, breathing challenges and thereafter kidney failure ensues. Kidney failure is also common with MERS.

Although organizations are encouraging pilgrims to be aware of the risk, the spirits of the pilgrims to mecca will not be swayed with ease.

The holy month of Ramadan lit up on July 10 and saw the influx of many from across the globe, either in preparation or in anticipation of the Hajj pilgrimage starting in October. This is a journey undertaken once a year, when pilgrims travel to Mecca to pray before the Kaaba. Hajj is one of five pillars of Islam and is seen as an obligation if one is physically and financially able. It is reflected in the millions of white-clad pilgrims who travel to this ancient city of Mecca as well as the wallets of the respective property and business owners. The millions flocking to Mecca bring billions of dollars, and for some this equates to their life savings. The total amount raked in from 2011’s Hajj pilgrimage was an estimated at $10 billion. The city itself is undergoing a continuing transformation, with the skyline being dotted with ever-more high rise buildings. The building of new, glamorous hotels and other investments, is an effort to meet the growing demand for accommodations within the holy city.

The ritual has been ingrained for 1 400 years and highlights the unity of Muslims from all across the world, converging in the Hajj pilgrimage.

Jessica Rosslee




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