Next week, the hot and happening place to be is in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as millions of Muslims gather to complete their pilgrimage to the sacred city of Mecca, a journey known as the Hajj. For public health practitioners within Saudi Arabia and beyond its borders, the Hajj poses serious challenges in the prevention and control of infectious diseases among the millions of faithful worshipers who seek to complete one of the five pillars of Islam.
It’s not only that the Saudi Ministry of Health must be on the look out for the typical pathogenic fare that thrive on large masses of humans – such as meningitis, various exotic gastrointestinal bugs, or tuberculosis – but also for more troublesome pathogens. This year in particular seems hardwired for trouble as the beginning of flu season is coinciding with continuing instances of polio trickling throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East.
As of this week, cases of polio have been reported in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and South Sudan for this calendar year (1). Also of great concern is the latest pathogen to emerge from seemingly nowhere, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Since 2012, this novel virus has been smoldering in hospitals throughout the Arabian Peninsula and Europe despite the best efforts of many physicians and health officials to extinguish its insidious spread.
And, of course, there’s the possibility of the spread of bloodborne diseases. (You weren’t expecting that one, were you?)Click through to the full post to find out more.