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Swine Flu Threatens Hajj - Pilgrims Banned From Saudi Arabia

The only country in the world that requires that international travelers receive the bacterial meningitis vaccine is Saudi Arabia. This is to protect the Saudi public, not the individual traveler. Bacterial meningitis is a serious and contagious illness.

Millions of Muslim pilgrims will head to Mecca this year for the the Hajj pilgrimage this November. Muslim travelers all over the world will roll up their sleeves for the bacterial meningitis vaccine before departure, but there will be far fewer pilgrims than in years past.

There will be fewer Muslim travelers this year because of concerns of 'swine flu' (H1N1) in Saudi Arabia. About 2000 Saudis are infected with H1N1, including 16 fatalities Fear and hysteria are spreading throughout the Muslim world. Iraq and Iran have already banned travel to Saudi Arabia for the Umrah ceremony during the current holy month of Ramadan. Businesses in the Mecca and Medina regions are now suffering, as Ramadan was historically a very profitable month for them.

Last month, Arab health ministers banned children, older citizens and those with medical conditions from attending the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca this November. Depending how 'swine flu' plays out in the coming weeks, various governments may widen the ban on the Hajj pilgrimage. The Hajj is the fifth pillar of the Islam faith and is a solemn obligation of all Muslims. It must be performed at least once by every Muslim who has the health and means to do so. The H1N1 pandemic has wreaked medical and financial havoc throughout the world. It may also prevent observant Muslims from keeping the faith.