First place winner, One World Media Coronavirus Reporting Award

  1. Home
  2. Middle East and North Africa
  3. Egypt

Saudi Arabia has highest incidence of flu

Some 3 million pilgrims went to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 2008 for Hajj. Health authorities are introducing measures to reduce the spread of pandemic H1N1 in the 2009 Hajj
Some 3 million pilgrims went to Mecca in 2008 for Hajj. In 2009, only those between the ages of 12 and 65 with proof of a flu vaccination and no chronic disease will be granted Hajj visas (Wikimedia Commons)

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of laboratory confirmed pandemic H1N1 cases in the Eastern Mediterranean Region – 595 – with four out of the eight deaths so far, according to an 8 August World Health Organization (WHO) report.

Kuwait comes second with 560 cases, although no deaths, and Egypt third with 314 cases and one death. Lebanon, Qatar and Iraq have each had one fatality.

While Israel’s Ministry of Health reported its fifth H1N1 death on 7 August and more than 2,000 cases of the virus, the country falls under WHO’s Europe region.

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan set to begin in about two weeks, and the annual Hajj due in late November, Arab health ministers are not allowing the elderly, children or chronically sick to make pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia. 

At a press conference on 5 August, Saudi Health Minister Dr Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said only those between the ages of 12 and 65 with proof of a flu vaccination and no chronic disease would be granted Hajj visas. Pregnant women and people with diabetes, obesity and hypertension would also be barred from Mecca, he said.

Pandemic H1N1 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region




Afghanistan 32 0
Bahrain 83 0
Egypt 314 1
Islamic Republic of Iran 144 0
Iraq 67 1
Jordan 99 0
Kuwait 560 0
Lebanon 210 1
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 9 0
Morocco 66 0
Oman 123 0
Pakistan 1 0
Palestine 80 0
Qatar 23 1
Saudi Arabia 595 4
Sudan 2 0
Syrian Arab Republic 13 0
Tunisia 19 0
United Arab Emirates 79 0
Yemen 13 0
Total 2532 8

Source: WHO as of 8 August

"These conditions have been approved after consultations with top international experts in the field," Khaled Al-Mirghalani, the Health Ministry's spokesman, said at a press conference. "No one will be able to get a visa without fulfilling these new rules."

Iran Air is reported on 10 August to have suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia, following an earlier Iranian government ban on all citizens from visiting Saudi Arabia during 30 days of Ramadan, beginning around 22 August. Iran had 144 reported cases of H1N1 on 8 August, according to WHO, mostly pilgrims who had visited Saudi Arabia.

Going global

As of 31 July, 168 countries and overseas territories/communities had reported at least one laboratory confirmed case of H1N1.

By the same date, WHO recorded a global total of 162,380 cases and 1,154 deaths. WHO specialists say the actual number of infections and deaths is likely to be much higher as many countries do not have the appropriate facilities or medical skills to diagnose the virus properly.

WHO segments the world into six regions: Africa, the least affected region, had 0.14 percent of the global total of H1N1 cases; the Eastern Mediterranean Region 0.8 percent; Southeast Asia 6.1 percent; Europe 16.1 percent; the Western Pacific 16.4 percent and the Americas 60 percent.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

Share this article
Join the discussion

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.