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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Swine Flu Hits Pilgrims to Mecca

RIYADH: Nine people out of more than half a million who have arrived for the annual hajj pilgrimage have been diagnosed with swine flu, Saudi Health Minister Dr Abdullah al-Rabeeah said on Wednesday.

'The situation from the point of health, we are very happy. Out of the 600,000 arriving so far, we have only seen nine suspected cases of A(H1N1), and only two of those are in the hospital,' Rabeeah told AFP.

'The rest were treated and they were discharged,' he said.

Rabeeah said that altogether 70 people had died in the kingdom this year from swine flu, none of them pilgrims.

The fatalities figure is up from 62 reported at the beginning of November, and the total number of proven cases is about 7,000, the minister said.

Concern has mounted about the possibility of a major outbreak of the disease during the hajj, when more than three million Muslims converge on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in western Saudi Arabia in the second half of November.

The Riyadh government has deployed about 20,000 health workers to deal with flu and other health emergencies among pilgrims, Rabeeah said.

More than 6,000 deaths from A(H1N1) flu had been reported worldwide as of November 1, according to the World Health Organisation.

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