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H1N1 in Saudi Arabia

11th August 2009

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently said that Saudi Arabia has the most confirmed pandemic H1N1 cases in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Four of the eight deaths due to H1N1 flu were in Saudi Arabia, and 595 of all cases were reported there.

Kuwait had the second-largest number, with 560 total cases and no deaths. Egypt has had 314 cases, putting it third after Kuwait. There has been one death there.

The other three deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean region came from Lebanon, Qatar, and Iraq.

With more than 2,000 cases of H1N1 and five deaths, Israel would lead the virus tally for the Eastern Mediterranean region were it classified there along with its neighbours.

However, the country falls under the WHO's Europe region.

Health ministers in Arabic speaking countries are not allowing people with chronic illnesses, the aged, or young children to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia this November.

Abdullah al-Rabi, the Saudi Health Minister, said that children under 12 years of age and elderly people over 65 would not be granted visas for the Hajj this year.

All other applicants will need a proof of flu vaccination in order to acquire the visa.

Khalid al-Mirghalani, spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Health, said that these requirements were approved by international experts, and that no one would be able to get a visa without fulfilling the new rules.

As of August 10th, Iran Air has reportedly suspended all flights bound for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Of Iran's 144 reported cases of H1N1 influenza, most had visited Saudi Arabia as pilgrims.

As of the beginning of August, nearly 170 countries had reported at least one incident of H1N1 influenza.

The WHO divides the world into six zones for the purpose of monitoring pandemics: Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Western Pacific.

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