MERS virus causes Saudi Arabia to warn some Muslims to avoid hajj pilgrimage
The deadly coronavirus, which has killed 38 people in Saudi Arabia, may make the annual religious journey to Mecca too risky for pregnant women, children, seniors and people with underlying health problems, Ministry of Health officials said in a statement.
Citing concerns over the deadly MERS coronavirus, the government of Saudi Arabia is urging elderly Muslims and those with underlying health problems to postpone their plans to attend this year’s religious pilgrimage in Mecca.
In a statement released over the weekend, the Saudi Ministry of Health warned off pregnant woman, children, the elderly and “those suffering chronic illnesses, like heart, kidney, respiratory diseases, and diabetes,” the AFP reported.
On its website, the ministry said the warning was part of “preventive measures special to the MERS coronavirus,” which has so far killed 38 people in the kingdom, the largest number reported in any country so far.
In all, 45 of the 81 people known to have been infected with MERS have died, and the World Health Organization convened emergency talks last week on the virus.
Millions of Muslims are expected to travel to Saudi Arabia in October to participate in one of Islam’s holiest rites, and this is the first time that the country’s Ministry of Health has issued travel warnings.
It remains unclear how MERS is spread, but it is believed to be an airborne virus that causes flu-like coughing, breathing difficulties and can lead to sudden kidney failure.
In 2012, more than three million Muslim pilgrims packed Mecca’s Sacred Mosque.