Background & objectives: Respiratory tract infections are common among Hajj and Umrah pilgrims which pose a public health risk of spread of respiratory infections. Influenza has been reported from Indian Hajj and Umrah returning pilgrims, but data on other respiratory pathogens are sparse in India. Here we report the presence of common respiratory viral pathogens in returning Hajj and Umrah pilgrims suffering from acute respiratory illness (ARI) in 2014-2015.
Methods: Respiratory specimens (nasopharyngeal and throat swabs) were collected from 300 consenting pilgrims with ARI in the past one week and tested for influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and other respiratory viruses using in-house standardized quantitative real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. Clinical features among the pathogen positive and negative patients were compared. The patients received symptomatic treatment and antivirals where appropriate and were followed telephonically to collect data on illness outcome.
Results: Ninety seven (32.3%) of the 300 participants were tested positive for any virus, most common being influenza viruses (n=33, 11%). Other respiratory viruses that were detected included human coronaviruses [n=26, 8.7%; OC43 (n=19, 6.3%) and C229E (n=7, 2.3%)], rhinovirus (n=20, 6%), adenoviruses (n=8, 2.6%), parainfluenza viruses (n=7, 2.3%), respiratory syncytial virus (n=3, 1%) and bocaviruses (n=2, 0.6%). Clinical features observed in pathogen positive and pathogen negative patients did not differ significantly. Eighteen influenza positive patients were treated with oseltamivir.
Interpretation & conclusions: Pilgrims returning from mass gatherings are often afflicted with respiratory pathogens with a potential to facilitate transmission of respiratory pathogens across international borders. The study reinforces the need for better infection prevention and control measures such as vaccination, health education on cough etiquette and hand hygiene.
- Communicable Disease Control/methods
- Coronavirus/isolation & purification
- Disease Transmission, Infectious/prevention & control
- Middle Aged
- Orthomyxoviridae/isolation & purification
- Public Health/methods
- Religious Missions/statistics & numerical data
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human/isolation & purification
- Respiratory Tract Infections/diagnosis
- Travel/statistics & numerical data