This stock image taken in 2012 shows part of the vast crowd at a holy site in Mecca during that year

More Than 25,000 Health Workers Ready to Aid Hajj Pilgrims

"We recognize the concerns that many have regarding infectious disease in today's environment, including the Middle East respiratory disease coronavirus. However, since the onset of the disease in 2012, there have not been any cases among hajj pilgrims, and we are working to keep it that way," said Khalid Al-Falih, minister of health of Saudi Arabia.

More than 25,000 additional health care workers have been deployed to aid anyone who becomes sick among an an estimated 2 million Muslims from 184 countries gathered in the Saudi Arabian city Mecca to take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage, according to the World Health Organization, which has been working with the Government of Saudi Arabia for the past six months to prepare. This is the sixth year WHO has assisted with health preparations for the hajj.

"With this large number of older people coming together at one time, an increase in potential health issues is always expected," said Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO's regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean Region. "Whether it is working to prevent the spread of the infectious diseases, treating injuries, or providing care for chronic health issues often associated with aging, there must be extensive coordination of health services locally during this time."

Besides the 25,000 additional health workers who have been deployed, eight hospitals that are only used during the pilgrimage have been opened. "These hospitals are complete with state-of-the-art surgical wards and intensive care units," said Khalid Al-Falih, minister of health of Saudi Arabia. "We recognize the concerns that many have regarding infectious disease in today's environment, including the Middle East respiratory disease coronavirus. However, since the onset of the disease in 2012, there have not been any cases among hajj pilgrims, and we are working to keep it that way."

The Saudi government requires certain health precautions from all pilgrims, including immunization to protect against diseases such as seasonal influenza, meningococcal meningitis, poliomyelitis, and yellow fever. Health officials advise pilgrims to practice good hygiene, including:

  • washing hands with soap and water or disinfectant, especially after coughing or sneezing
  • using disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and disposing of them properly
  • avoiding hand contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth so as not to spread germs

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