Jeddah hospitals struggling to cope with post-Haj illnesses

Irfan Mohammed

Published — Monday 12 November 2012

Last update 12 November 2012 7:16 pm

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JEDDAH: Many hospitals and polyclinics in Jeddah are struggling to cope with patients suffering from post-Haj related illnesses. Doctors, and general physicians are preoccupied with treating patients experiencing respiratory infections, as well as other communicable diseases common during Haj season.
Post Haj illnesses are a common phenomenon that Jeddah residents experience annually, whether the illness is due to residents performing Haj, receiving pilgrims or due to sheer proximity to the holy sites.
Expatriate residents, receiving visiting pilgrims have also been busy attending to their sick pilgrims and providing medical attention to them. There is a surge of outpatients in nearly 100% of the polyclinics in Jeddah, and the situation may persist for another two weeks. Physicians and paramedics attending to the sick patients also fall sick sometimes, due to heavy exposure to infections and viruses, as their immunity weakens.
The Saudi Ministry of Health, has demonstrated it’s commitment to mitigating health diseases during Haj by providing great medical care to the pilgrims, and by taking all the necessary precautionary health measures. However, the intensely crowded conditions of Haj, as natives from more than 150 countries converge in the holy sites, still poses health issues, with respiratory infections most common among patients.
Symptoms of illness usually appear at the end of the Haj season, characterized by coughing, sore throat, fever, fatigue, and malaise.
If coughing persists for several weeks, accompanied by purulent sputum, it is recommended to visit a doctor, as it could be an indication of a superimposed bacterial infection.
According to a report by Dr. Abdulaziz H. Alzeer of King Khalid University Hospital in Riyadh, 1 in 3 pilgrims experience respiratory infections during Haj season.
Haj pilgrims are given three vaccines: the meningococcal vaccine, which is mandatory for all Haj pilgrims to protect against meningitis; the seasonal influenza vaccine, which is essential to reduce the risk of flu; and the pneumococcal vaccine, which is required for people with heart, kidney and liver diseases, to protect them against pneumococcal diseases. All pilgrims are required to get immunizations, 14 days or more, prior to their arrival to the Kingdom, as it is a mandatory condition for obtaining their Haj visa.
Meningitis and seasonal influenza vaccines are also administered concurrently to residents.
Health issues vary from one pilgrim to the other, depending on their country of origin. For instance, African pilgrims suffer from yellow fever, whereas that type of illness is not found among Asian pilgrims. Pilgrims from Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, which comprise nearly half of the foreign pilgrims, typically experience common cold symptoms and pharyngitis, upon arrival in the Kingdom. Pilgrims from these countries have exclusive medical facilities for their Haj missions in Makkah and Madinah.
In addition, a total of 25 hospital and 141 medical clinics were established by the Saudi Ministry of Health, to attend to pilgrims in the holy cities.

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