Student elective for Ahmad Moola, Mayooran Shanmuganathan & Oliver Todd. (360G-Wellcome-083486_Z_07_Z)
Over 25,000 British Muslims are amongst the 2 million who perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, making it the largest annual gathering on earth. Consequently, the Hajj poses a number of important public health challenges. Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are thought to be the most common illness affecting up to 33% of pilgrims. A number of factors unique to the Hajj, from overcrowding to heat exhaustion, heighten the risk of transmission of RTIs. These include: (a) The various states of health of pilgrims arriving from an estimated 140 countries, each from their own, ethnic, linguistic and social backgrounds bringing the endemic illness associated with their subpopulations, (b) Overcrowding, in particular those associated with the rites of the Hajj, results in pilgrims sharing accommodation, often with up to 150 per tent, in the desert plains of Mina and Arafat; (c) Inadequate nutrition, (d) Poor accessibility to clean drinking water; (e) Heat exhaustion - it is not unknown for the desert temperatures to reach 400C; (f) The considerable physical exertion and travel, often undertaken by foot, necessary to fulfil the rites of the Hajj. Furthermore, as Islam is governed by the lunar calendar, the Hajj falls 11 days earlier each year. Currently it falls in the winter season when RTIs are most prevalent. With current opinion that a global influenza pandemic is imminent and the findings of avian influenza in humans including in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, experts suggest current public health measures are inadequate to cope with such an outbreak.
£4,200 11 Jun 2007