Introduction: Religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, or Hajj, is a basic tenet of the Islamic doctrine and, after Ramadan, annually represents the largest human concentration (with up to 5% of from the EU) around the world. Such a gathering entails health risks. Methods: A prospective observational study was conducted of a cohort of pilgrims attended for pre-travel preventive activities in the North Metropolitan International Health Unit (Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Barcelona, Spain) from 2009-2010. Results: A total of 193 pilgrims were assessed and 135 (69.9%) were men. Their mean age (SD) was 37.1 (16.9) years. Among the pilgrims, 176 (91.2%) were immigrants, mainly from Pakistan (54.9%), Morocco (29%), Bangladesh (4.1%) or other countries (7.2%). The pilgrims stayed in Saudi Arabia a mean (SD) of 16.3 (9.2) days. Eighty (41.5%) opted for the 1 month-long pilgrimage (Hajj) and 113 (58.5%) for the shorter Umra. One or more pathological antecedent was recorded in 29 (15%). Vaccination coverage was >75% for tetanus-diphtheria, pneumococcal and quadrivalent meningitis but was only 70.4% for influenza. After returning, 41 (13.5%) pilgrims reported some health problem; of these, 61% were respiratory tract symptoms. The risk factors independently correlated with the presence of diseases was the number of days in Saudi Arabia (OR = 1.06; 95% CI: 1.01-1.11) and taking part in the Hajj compared with the Umra (OR = 1.08; 95% CI: 1.07-1.12). Conclusions: Religious pilgrims from Spain to Saudi Arabia are mainly young and healthy. Those with longer stays abroad contracted a higher number of diseases. © 2011 SESPAS.
|Publication status||Published - 1 May 2012|