Background: Annually, Saudi Arabia is the host of the Hajj mass gathering. We aimed to determine the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) nasal carriage rate among pilgrims performing the 2013 Hajj and to describe the compliance with the Saudi Ministry of Health vaccine recommendations.
Method: Nasopharyngeal samples were collected from 5235 adult pilgrims from 22 countries and screened for MERS-CoV using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Information regarding the participants' age, gender, country of origin, medical conditions, and vaccination history were obtained.
Results: The mean age of the screened population was 51.8 years (range, 18-93 years) with a male/female ratio of 1.17:1. MERS-CoV was not detected in any of the samples tested (3210 pre-Hajj and 2025 post-Hajj screening). According to the vaccination documents, all participants had received meningococcal vaccination and the majority of those from at-risk countries were vaccinated against yellow fever and polio. Only 22% of the pilgrims (17.5% of those ≥65 years and 36.3% of diabetics) had flu vaccination, and 4.4% had pneumococcal vaccination.
Conclusion: There was no evidence of MERS-CoV nasal carriage among Hajj pilgrims. While rates of compulsory vaccinations uptake were high, uptake of pneumococcal and flu seasonal vaccinations were low, including among the high-risk population.
Keywords: Hajj pilgrimage; MERS-CoV; nasal carriage; screening; vaccination.
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