MANILA – The Philippines government has urged would-bep-ilgrim to delay their journey to the holy lands this year, after the deadly outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Saudi Kingdom.
"We know it's a religious custom, but it is also our duty to provide health advisories," Lee health department spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy told Agence France Presse (AFP).
"It's an appeal for them to delay the trip if possible due to the MERS virus.... If possible, they should go next year."
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The Health Ministry spokesman said that the government has consulted Muslim government agencies as well as community leaders before issuing the advisory.
Millions of pilgrims visit holy sites in Saudi Arabia, the country worst hit by the disease, for the annual Hajj, the major Muslim pilgrimage that this year will take place in October, and for the Umrah, which is performed throughout the year.
The World Health Organization said last month that the surge in MERS cases has receded, but countries must maintain vigilance for the Muslim pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.
First recorded in Saudi Arabia in 2012, the deadly virus known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has been striking hardest in the kingdom.
The SARS-like virus can be lethal by causing respiratory problems, pneumonia, and kidney failure.
The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia. Yet, the count has ticked up steadily taking it to hundreds, the bulk of them in the kingdom.
MERS has killed at least 284 people in Saudi Arabia since it first emerged in April 2012, and hundreds more have been infected, with 22 countries having reported cases.
At least two of the dead in Saudi Arabia are Filipinos, according to the Philippine foreign department.
With millions of Muslims turning to Makkah and Madinah to perform hajj every year, fears were maximizing about providing the virus a perfect opportunity to spread across the world.
The 2012 hajj drew 3.1 million people -- and this year's event likewise occurs in October, as the northern hemisphere slides into the season for coughs and sneezes.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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