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Mon 30 Nov 2009 07:46 AM

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Five dead from swine flu at hajj

Only 73 H1N1 cases, including five deaths, recorded during hajj, compared to 2.5 million pilgrims there.

Five dead from swine flu at hajj
FLU DEATHS: Five pilgrims have died from swine flu during the hajj, officials confirmed on the final day. (AFP/Getty Images)

A total of five pilgrims have died from swine flu during this year’s hajj, Saudi Arabian officials confirmed on Sunday.

The small number of cases compared to the 2.5 million people who completed the pilgrimage to Saudi’s holy sites was due to the kingdom’s safety precautions, Abdullah al-Rabeeah told Associated Press.

However, according to a report by the news agency, some experts have warned the true extent of the H1N1 virus will not be known until pilgrims return to their home countries.

A total of 73 cases of H1N1, including five deaths, were recorded by officials, al-Rabeeah said, speaking on the final day of the hajj – one of the pillars of Islam.

"Our safety precautions have secured a very successful and safe hajj for pilgrims from around the world with no infectious disease outbreaks," al-Rabeeah said.

Al-Rabeeah brushed aside concerns about pilgrims taking the virus home with them, saying some pilgrims have been in the country for almost a month, far longer than the weeklong incubation period.

"They've had enough time to show symptoms of swine flu, and that hasn't happened," he said.

But he also said Saudi authorities will continue to monitor pilgrims until they leave the country, and urged other countries to monitor pilgrims upon their return home.

Kuwait's hajj mission has told people to avoid hugging or kissing relatives returning from the pilgrimage in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease.

Meanwhile, more than 11,000 names have been added to a Facebook page to complain about the government’s handling of the floods, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reports.

In the absence of any other means of legal protest, members of the social networking site have raised their concerns about the floods which killed at least 103 people and injured thousands of others. None of those killed were on the hajj, officials said.

The deaths have been blamed on poor construction of houses and infrastructure like bridges, and residents of the city say the government had been made aware of allegations that they were of poor construction, the paper reported.

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