FACTBOX: Saudi measures to tackle flu at pilgrimage

Mon Sep 28, 2009 6:30am EDT
 
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(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has urged Muslims who are unfit, such as the elderly, ill, pregnant women and children, to postpone pilgrimage to Mecca as part of efforts to prevent a large-scale spread of the H1N1 flu.

Following are Saudi measures to prevent a major outbreak at the annual haj in November when three million pilgrims from over 160 countries are expected to flock in to Mecca. Pilgrims can also do the minor pilgrimage, or umra, throughout the year.

- So far there have been over 3,500 confirmed cases of H1N1 cases in Saudi Arabia, which were mostly cured, according to local media. Around 26 have passed away.

- The haj airport terminal of the Red sea port city of Jeddah, the first stop for pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia, will be fitted with 20 thermal sensors to check pilgrims.

- Medical staff at the airport will increase by 20 percent from last year's haj season to 550 medical professionals including doctors, nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists.

- Authorities will set up health centers near airports in Jeddah and Medina, the second holy city, with the capacity to house up to 500 patients who will be sent there for treatment during the incubation period.

- The kingdom has ordered 10 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine, expected to be available in October. It will be mandatory for all pilgrims coming into Saudi Arabia.

- Saudi Arabia also increased its stock of Tamiflu by 20 percent, double the WHO recommendation for other countries, authorities said in July.

- The authorities have postponed starting the new school year for up to two weeks to train over 66,000 teachers on how to help prevent the spreading of the virus in schools. The education ministry will get five million doses of H1N1 vaccine for students.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)