Demographic distribution and transmission potential of influenza A and 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 in pilgrims
Introduction: The World Health Organization’s persistent reporting of global outbreaks of influenza A viruses, including the 2009 pandemic swine A H1N1 strain (H1N1pdm09), justified the targeted surveillance of pilgrims during their annual congregation that pools more than two million people from around 165 nations in a confined area of Makkah city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
Methodology: A total of 1,600 pilgrims were included in the targeted surveillance of influenza A and the 2009 pandemic swine H1N1 strain in the Hajj (pilgrimage) season of 2010. Each pilgrim responded to a demographic and health questionnaire. Collected oropharyngeal swabs were analyzed by real-time PCR for influenza A viruses, and positive samples were further analyzed for the presence of H1N1pdm09. Fisher’s exact test was applied in the analysis of the significance of the distribution of influenza-positive pilgrims according to demographic characters.
Results: A total of 120 pilgrims (7.5%) tested positive for influenza A viruses by real-time PCR. Nine out of the 120 influenza-A-positive pilgrims (7.5%) were positive for H1N1pdm09. Demographics played a significant role in those pilgrims who tested positive for influenza A.
Conclusions: The detection of H1N1pdm09 in pilgrims at their port of entry to the KSA was alarming, due to the high potential of trans-boundary transmission. This situation necessitates the implementation of specific prevention and control programs to limit infection by influenza A viruses.
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