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Morbidity among Arab–Israeli and Palestinian Hajj Pilgrims: A Prospective Study

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  • 1 Digestive Diseases Institute, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel;
  • 2 The Internal Medicine Ward, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel;
  • 3 The Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer and the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel;
  • 4 The Infectious Diseases Unit, Shaare-Zedek Medical Center, and the Hebrew University School of Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel

ABSTRACT

Thousands of Palestinian and Arab–Israeli pilgrims travel to Mecca each year to complete their pilgrimage. To the best of our knowledge, no previous studies have characterized the infectious and noninfectious morbidity among Arab–Israeli or Palestinian Hajj pilgrims. Thus, we designed and conducted an observational questionnaire-based study to prospectively investigate the occurrence of health problems among these Hajjis who traveled to complete their Pilgrimage during 2019 Hajj season. For the purpose of the study, questionnaires were distributed to Hajj pilgrims at three different time occasions—before travel, inquiring on demographics and medical comorbidities; and 1 and 4 weeks after returning recording any health problems encountered during or after travel. Initial recruitment included 111 Hajjis. The mean age of responders was 49.5 (±9.1) years, with a Male:Female ratio of 1.3:1. The mean travel duration was 18.7 (13–36) days. Altogether, 66.3% of the pilgrims reported at least one health problem during and after the trip, of which 38.6% sought medical attention. Five (4.8%) hajjis were hospitalized, including life-threatening conditions. Cough was the most common complaint (53.8%), and 11.5% also reported fever. Pretravel counseling was associated with reduced outpatient and emergency room visits. We therefore concluded that a high rate of morbidity was reported among this cohort of Hajj pilgrims with a morbidity spectrum similar to pilgrims from other countries. Pretravel consultation with the purpose of educating the pilgrims on the health risks of Hajj may help reduce the morbidity for future Hajj seasons.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Bashar Fteiha, Digestive Diseases Institute, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Shmu’el Bait St 12, Jerusalem, 9103102, Israel. E-mail: basharf@szmc.org.il

Authors’ addresses: Bashar Fteiha and Tamar Lachish, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel, E-mails: basharf@szmc.org.il and lachisht@szmc.org.il. Tawfiq Abul Al-Rub, The Internal Medicine Ward, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel, E-mail: tawfiq_med91@hotmail.com. Eli Schwartz, The Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer and the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Israel, E-mail: elischwa@tauex.tau.ac.il.

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