Thursday, October 10, 2013

The real threat to the 2013 Hajj

Saudi Special Forces in Parade
Courtesy of Omar Chatriwala. Flickr Photostream
According to the interior ministry, Saudi Arabia is deploying 95,000 personnel from the defense ministry, national guard and intelligence agencies with an additional 40,000 members of the special forces mobilized to secure the Hajj pilgrimage during October 13 to 18 of this year.

Despite these well meaning attempts by Saudi authorities to guard against terrorism, the real threat remains elusive and no amount of fire power and explosives can protect against it. That threat comes from a little understood but deadly virus known as the MERS-CoV.

To date the corona virus has racked up a frightening mortality record; killing almost 50% of the infected population, far worse than its precursor cousin SARS that had a death rate of about 10%. While the the statistics are worrisome for the over 2 million pilgrim population visiting Saudi Arabia this year from 180 countries, the good news is, a much larger population, about 15 million, that visited Mecca in Ramadan during June-July 2013 returned to their home lands safely without any occurrence of the disease.

The World Health Organization, WHO, decided against issuing MERS-CoV warnings, urging authorities and pilgrims to take extra caution, which appears to be what Saudi officials are doing by advising the weak, infirm, elderly and those with autoimmune disease to postpone their Hajj plans this year and by advising usage of face masks and frequent washing.

No vaccine is yet available with the only remedy being to stay in bed, take rest and fluids and void contact with others to prevent viral spread.

"Saudi Arabia ready for ‘all possibilities’ during Haj | The National." Latest and breaking news | - The National. n.d.

Omar Chatriwala Fickr Photostream

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