As over two million Muslims from all over the world gathered on the plain of Arafat for one of the final rituals of their Hajj, the Saudi government sought to dissuade international fears of the increased chances of infection for all the pilgrims in close quarters to one another. Out of the two million, 1.4 come from roughly 163 different nations, which means that the Ebola virus could quickly become a global epidemic if the proper precautions are not taken. What measures has the Saudi government taken to decrease the threat, and how effective will these methods prove to be against the spread of the disease?
Pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the three countries with the highest incidence of the disease have been denied visas by the Saudi government, but people from Nigeria (with 20 cases and 8 deaths) and D.R Congo are still part of the pilgrimage, which means that there is a risk of exposure for all those involved in the Hajj. Saudi authorities have also set up Isolation centers in hospitals, and inspection points at airports. But the incubation period of the disease can be anywhere between 2 and 21 days, which means that even those cleared with a clean bill of health are likely to be carriers, and a risk to all the pilgrims around them.
Over 3091 people have died because of the outbreak since December last year, when the virus started its destructive path in West Africa. The first case in the US has been diagnosed after a man had been exposed to over a 100 people in Texas. Coming into contact with any bodily fluids of an Ebola carrier can be disastrous for people without the disease. A single sneeze is all it takes, which means that even one Ebola carrier in Saudi Arabia can risk spreading the disease to various corners of the world. One can only hope that as the pilgrims travel to their home countries, the concerned authorities are aware of risks, and have taken measures accordingly.