WHO issues advisory for Haj Pilgrims

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an interim travel advice to pilgrims planning to go on Haj and Umara in the coming months.

The U.N. health agency encouraged the governments to apprise the pilgrims about the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which has affected nine countries so far including France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain.

The virus, which emerged in Saudi Arabia last year, can cause cough, fever and pneumonia. According to the data available with the WHO, MERS-CoV has claimed 45 lives.

The Advisory
WHO has stated that the awareness about the virus would thwart its spread among the pilgrims.

People have also been directed to report to local health authorizes in case any of the symptoms of the virus appear. Pilgrims have been asked not to maintain contact with others in case they have been infected with the virus. They are required to cover their mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing.

The advisory also cautions that any pre-existing medical condition like diabetes, immuno deficiency can make the individual more susceptible to contracting the MERS-CoV infection during travel.

WHO has advised countries to adopt means whereby ill passengers who have been travelling by ship or by air can be detected at points of entry in the country. The authorities have also been asked to arrange for safe transportation of such symptomatic travelers to hospitals or designated clinical facilities.

No Restrictions on Trade and Travel
WHO does not intend to issue any travel or trade restrictions at this point of time. In fact, the agency maintained that there was no need to screen the pilgrims intending to go on the annual Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Health officials in Saudi Arabia were apprehensive of a large outbreak of the virus as millions of Muslims from all over the world visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina during the haj.

In an issued statement, WHO maintained that ““the risk to an individual pilgrim of contracting MERS-CoV is considered very low.”