Public Health

Swine Flu Takes Light Toll At Hajj

Worries ran high that the new H1N1 virus would wreak havoc at the hajj, the annual pilgrimage that brought 2.5 million Muslims to Mecca this year. But the number of cases and fatalities from swine flu turned out to be much lower than expected.

Only 73 illnesses and five deaths were attributed to the H1N1 flu virus, the AFP reported.

Four of the deaths occurred in people older than 70. The fifth was a 17-year-old Nigerian woman. All of them had other health issues, such as heart disease and cancer. "Our safety precautions have secured a very successful and safe hajj for pilgrims from around the world with no infectious disease outbreaks," Saudi Arabian Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah said, according to the Associated Press. The five-day event ended Sunday.

Ahead of the pilgrimage this year, Saudi health officials took extra measures to minimize the risk of an H1N1 outbreak, including asking people 65 and older and those with underlying health problems to wait on performing the hajj this year. See the World Health Organization summary here.

For a look at the precautions taken against H1N1 for the hajj and the comments of some pilgrims, watch this video from Al Jazeera:

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