Every year roughly 3 million people arrive at Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, for Hajj. One of the five pillars of Islam, Hajj is a duty that every able-bodied Muslim must perform. It is the annual pilgrimage that Muslims from all different countries make to Mecca to pray together. It is an act of unity; a pilgrimage to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood.
Hajj is one of the largest mass gatherings in the world and celebrations last anywhere from one week to the whole month. During this time, millions of people share crowded spaces and experience extreme heat and exhaustion, wearing down their immune systems. These factors create a favorable environment for infectious disease transmission. Among the communicable diseases recorded at Hajj in the past are meningitis, tuberculosis, polio and zoonotic diseases.
Today, Nov. 4, marks the beginning of the Hajj celebration. Saudi Arabia, particularly the Ministry of Health, has been preparing for months. With the advances in technology and transportation, people can come and go from Mecca much faster than before. Any diseases transmitted while in Saudi Arabia might not become evident until after the hosts have left. The risk for rapid spread of communicable diseases is drastically increased during Hajj.
To track the outbreak of disease during this year’s Hajj, HealthMap has created a map specifically for this event. The Disease Daily is also launching its first series, which will focus on infectious disease in Mass Gatherings. Visit next week for more!