Respiratory tract infections during the annual Hajj: potential risks and mitigation strategies

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2013 May;19(3):192-7. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32835f1ae8.


Purpose of review: Mass gatherings such as religious pilgrimages, sporting events and music concerts are becoming larger and more frequent. The scale and frequency of large-scale international events pose substantial risks to the spread of infectious diseases. The available literature on respiratory tract infections at the Hajj pilgrimage - annually attended by 3 million pilgrims from all over the globe - are reviewed.

Recent findings: The most common respiratory tract infection viruses are influenza and rhinovirus. Despite the occurrence of the Hajj during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic the available literature did not show an increased rate of infection. In hospitalized patients, pneumonia is a significant cause of admission accounting for 20-50% of such admissions.

Summary: The use of masks may reduce exposure to droplet nuclei, the main mode of transmission of most respiratory tract infections. The practice of social distancing, hand hygiene, and contact avoidance was associated with reduced risk of respiratory illness. In addition, utilizing the recommended vaccines would decrease the risk of acquiring respiratory tract pathogens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human* / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human* / prevention & control
  • Influenza, Human* / virology
  • Islam*
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / virology
  • Travel*