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Mass gatherings are breeding grounds for coronavirus

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Why mass gatherings ARE breeding grounds for coronavirus: Almost 80 per cent of all illnesses suffered by people returning from international events of more than 25,000 people are respiratory conditions, study finds

  • Study tracked admissions around the world for respiratory conditions
  • Found around 80% of illnesses after international events were respiratory 
  • Sacred pilgrimages of hajj and umrah were biggest culprits for infection  
  • World Scout Jamboree and the Olympics also resulted in infections
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Attending international mass gatherings of more than 25,000 people is linked to an increased risk of catching a respiratory disease, a study confirms. 

Researchers tracked admissions to 68 clinical sites in 28 countries between August 2015 and April 2019 to see how overseas events influenced health. 

The findings reveal that around 80 per cent of travellers seeking medical help recently after returning home from an event abroad suffered respiratory problems. 

Researchers found influenza and pneumonia accounted for 26 per cent and 20 per cent of all diagnoses respectively. 

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The most significant contributor to total illnesses noted by the researchers at Aix-Marseille University was hajj (154 cases). The sacred rite of umrah was second with 87 cases. Both involve journeying to the holy city of Mecca, pictured here in a file photo

The most significant contributor to total illnesses noted by the researchers at Aix-Marseille University was hajj (154 cases). The sacred rite of umrah was second with 87 cases. Both involve journeying to the holy city of Mecca, pictured here in a file photo 

A total of 260 patients fell ill with a condition they caught at a mass gathering overseas.

‘A total of 303 diagnoses were reported among the 260 ill travellers whose illness was associated with a mass gathering,’ the researchers write in the study.

‘Respiratory diseases were the most frequently reported disease category with 236 diagnoses (77.9 per cent), followed by gastrointestinal diseases (4.6 per cent).’ 

The paper published recently in the journal Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease gathered data before the emergence of the novel coronavirus. 

COVID-19 has now killed more than 19,000 people globally and has caused a global pandemic, infecting almost half a million individuals.   

Sixty-four percent of ill travellers who had recently attended umrah or hajj were hospitalised because of their illness and one person died. Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage earlier this month over fears that coronavirus could spread to Islam's holiest cities (file photo)

Sixty-four percent of ill travellers who had recently attended umrah or hajj were hospitalised because of their illness and one person died. Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage earlier this month over fears that coronavirus could spread to Islam’s holiest cities (file photo)

The most significant contributor to total illnesses noted by the researchers at Aix-Marseille University involved pilgrimages to the Muslim holy city of mecca. 

Hajj was the single biggest route of infection with 154 cases while the sacred rite of umrah was second with 87 cases. 

Ill travellers who acquired a bug while on umrah or hajj had an average age of 57 years old, with the oldest person being 87 years old.

Sixty-four percent of ill travellers who attended umrah or hajj were hospitalised because of their illness and one person died. 

Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage earlier this month over fears that coronavirus could spread to Islam’s holiest cities.

The umrah – which, unlike the hajj, can be undertaken at any time of year – draws millions of Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia every year.

But the Gulf state has today decided to ‘suspend umrah temporarily for citizens and residents in the kingdom’, official media said.

Visitors are also barred from ‘visits to the Prophet’s mosque in Medina’, the foreign ministry said. 

The next worst offending event in the latest study was the World Scout Jamboree which was responsible for 6.5 per cent of all cases. 

The Olympics was also responsible for nine cases, but most of these were caught during travel, not during the events themselves, the researchers believe.  



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