More than half a million Muslims were monitored for the presence of bird flu infection following their arrival at Mecca. These individuals who have been found to be devoid of any infection will continue their haj pilgrimage and participate in the rites due to begin by the second week of January.
There has been an increasing global fear regarding the possibility of a viral mutation that would enable the human-human transmission. The probability of this event happening would be more if infected people were allowed to mingle with people suffering from seasonal flu.
"Anyone found to have an illness is sent back to his country immediately," said Health Minister Hamad al-Manei, adding that the kingdom had arranged for health checks at different arrival points across the country. Details' regarding the people sent back after the monitoring is currently unavailable.
Mecca is a religious destination for over 2.5 million Muslims from across 160 different countries. A majority of these pilgrims migrate from Asian countries, where the deadly H5N1 virus has claimed more than 70 lives.
It was regarded by health experts that a large crowd of people gathering at Mecca could pave way for the emergence of a pandemic bird flu strain. More than $6.7 million have been spent to manage the crisis in an effective way, especially among those in contact with poultry.