No returning haj pilgrims with flu-like symptoms: Muis

Muslim worshippers gather at the Grand Mosque in Islam's holiest city of Mecca, on June 14, 2018.
Muslim worshippers gather at the Grand Mosque in Islam's holiest city of Mecca, on June 14, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - There have been no cases of pilgrims returning from the haj with flu-like symptoms in Singapore, amid the two haj-related health scares at United States airports last week, the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Muis) said on Tuesday (Sept 11).

The two health incidents in the US involved inbound flights that had people returning from Muslim pilgrimages to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, US officials said last Friday.

Last Wednesday, US health officials sent an emergency response team with mobile diagnostic equipment to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after they were told that more than 100 passengers aboard an Emirates airlines flight from Dubai were experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Two passengers who tested positive for an especially virulent type of influenza A virus and one who was tested positive for a cold virus had all taken part in the haj.

The next day, two flights arriving in Philadelphia from Europe were screened by medical teams after 12 passengers reported flu-like symptoms. One of them had visited Mecca for the haj.

A Muis spokesman told The Straits Times that its haj unit has not received any reports of such symptoms from returning pilgrims so far.

The haj quota for this year was increased to 900 people, a hundred more than last year's quota.

 

The last group of pilgrims left on Aug 16, and all pilgrims are expected to arrive back in Singapore by Saturday. About half of the pilgrims have returned, said the Muis spokesman.

Asked about the health scares overseas, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that it maintains close contact with the World Health Organisation and its overseas counterparts to monitor the global infectious disease situation, so as to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of diseases in Singapore as far as possible.

A ministry spokesman said that MOH also works closely with Muis during the haj period to advise haj and umrah pilgrims on the recommended vaccinations to receive prior to travel, as well as precautions to adopt when overseas.

It added that travellers to any foreign country should be aware of any health advisories issued by the local health authorities in that country.

Other precautions travellers can take include seeking medical attention promptly if unwell and avoiding close contact with people who have symptoms of infectious diseases.