Influenza and respiratory syncytial virus infections in British Hajj pilgrims

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Rashid, H ; Shafi, S ; Booy, R ; Bashir, H El ; Ali, K ; Zambon, MC ; Memish, ZA ; Ellis, J ; Coen, PG ; Haworth, E (2011)

Viral respiratory infections including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have been reported during the Hajj among international pilgrims. To help establish the burden of these infections at the Hajj, we set up a study to confirm these diagnoses in symptomatic British pilgrims who attended the 2005 Hajj. UK pilgrims with symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) were invited to participate; after taking medical history, nasal swabs were collected for point-of-care testing (PoCT) of influenza and for subsequent PCR analysis for influenza and RSV. Of the 205 patients recruited, 37 (18%) were positive for either influenza or RSV. Influenza A (H3) accounted for 54% (20/37) of the virus-positive samples, followed by RSV 24% (9/37), influenza B 19% (7/37), and influenza A (H1) 3% (1/37). Of the influenza-positive cases, 29% (8/28) had recently had a flu immunisation. Influenza was more common in those who gave a history of contact with a pilgrim with a respiratory illness than those who did not (17 versus 9%). The overall rate of RSV was 4% (9/202). This study confirms that influenza and RSV cause acute respiratory infections in British Hajj pilgrims. Continuing surveillance and a programme of interventions to contain the spread of infection are needed at the Hajj, particularly when the world is preparing for an influenza pandemic. (Published: 29 February 2008) Emerging Health Threats Journal 2008, 1:e2. doi: 10.3134/ehtj.08.002
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