Thanks to Greg Folkers for tweeting the link to this March 11 report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases: Prevalence of MERS-CoV nasal carriage and compliance with the Saudi health recommendations among pilgrims attending the 2013 Hajj. The authors include Dr. Ziad Memish and the Saudi minister of health, Abdullah Al-Rabeeah. The abstract:
Background. Saudi Arabia is annually the host of the Hajj mass gathering. We aimed to determine the MERS-CoV nasal carriage rate among pilgrims performing the 2013 Hajj and to describe the compliance with the Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) vaccine recommendations.
Method. Nasopharyngeal samples were collected from 5235 adult pilgrims from 22 countries and screened for MERS-CoV using RT-PCR. Information regarding the participants' age, gender, country of origin, medical conditions as well as vaccination history were obtained.
Results. The mean age of the screened population was 51.8 years (range: 18-93 years) with a male/female ratio of 1.17:1. MERS-CoV was not detected in any of the samples tested (3210 pre-Hajj and 2025 post-Hajj screening). According to the vaccination documents, all participants had received meningococcal vaccination and the majority of those from at risk countries were vaccinated against yellow fever and polio. Only 22% of the pilgrims, 17.5% of those ≥65 years and 36.3% of diabetics, had flu vaccination and 4.4% had pneumococcal vaccination.
Conclusion. There was no evidence of MERS-CoV nasal carriage among Hajj pilgrims. While rates of compulsory vaccinations uptake were high, uptake of pneumococcal and flu seasonal vaccinations were low including amongst the high risk population.