With the annual Hajj pilgrimage occurring from August 9 to 14, 2019, thousands of Americans will be joining approximately two million Muslims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Crowded conditions increase the risk of communicable diseases, including respiratory and diarrheal illnesses.
Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA) Communicable Disease Control
(formerly known as Epidemiology and Assessment)
reminds healthcare providers in hospitals, emergency departments and clinics that a best practice continues to be to routinely ask patients with acute and possibly infectious illness about recent international travel.
One disease of particular concern in the Arabian Peninsula is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV or MERS), which is associated with severe acute respiratory illness. Although MERS infections are rare, there is no vaccine or specific treatment, the case fatality rate for MERS is about 35%, and healthcare transmission, including to healthcare workers, has occurred on numerous occasions. Since the disease was first recognized in 2012, all cases have been linked through travel to, or residence in, countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula. However, limited transmission in other countries, including a large outbreak in the Republic of Korea, has occurred from travelers from the Arabian Peninsula. Cases continue to be identified in the Arabian Peninsula,
with the most recent cases reported in Saudi Arabia in the past few months.