Health checks for Thai Hajj pilgrims

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BANGKOK, July 1 – Thai Muslims travelling to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj, one of the world’s primary pilgrimages, will be given  health checks and vaccine injections to prevent influenza and meningococcal meningitis infections, according to the Public Health Ministry.

Deputy Public Health Minister Cholanan Srikaew said 13,000 Thai Muslims, 80 per cent of them residents in five southern border provinces, will leave for the holy city of Mecca in September for this year’s religious ceremony.

Most of the pilgrims are above 40 years old and need special health checks for such as blood pressure, diabetes and heart condition.

He said the pilgrimage–which draws about three million people worldwide each year–is highly susceptible to the spread of infectious diseases, especially coronavirus 2012 or respiratory syndrome, which was first reported in the Middle East in September last year.

There is no report of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in Thailand at present, but prevention is necessary, he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported 77 MERS patients, 40 them fatalities, in eight countries as of June 26 and 80 per cent of the patients and deceased lived in Saudi Arabia, he said.

Dr Cholanan said the Public Health Ministry will monitor the health of Thai pilgrims for 15 days after their return from the Hajj.