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Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Hajj Is Over. Is The Pandemic Just Beginning?

The Hajj has ended and now millions of observant Muslims will return to their homes all around the world after making the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Of concern right now is the possibility that some may have contracted the ultra-deadly MERS-CoV virus which has been striking down people within Saudi Arabia since 2012. This disease is new on the medical horizon, never before seen in humans much like the SARS virus that rampaged through China a decade ago infecting over 8000 people killing over 700. MERS-CoV presents even more of a concerning picture due the facts that it's mortality rate is 3-4 times that of SARS and that the incubation period, the time between becoming infected and showing symptoms, could be as long as 2 weeks. This constitutes a serious problem, especially as it concerns the Hajj in that those that are infected could return to their countries and appear perfectly normal thus escaping detection by border personnel on the lookout for anyone exhibiting symptoms of cough, fever and other signs of illness. The next 1-2 weeks will be critical in terms of the potential for a world wide pandemic occurring. Surveillance measures are currently in place in many countries on the lookout for clusters of people coming down with severe flu-like illnesses. Again, the next few weeks will be critical in terms of a world wide pandemic caused by the MERS-CoV virus. With a 40% mortality rate such a pandemic could rival the Great Pandemic of 1918 in the number of people infected and killed.