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Background. Respiratory symptoms including cough, runny nose, sore throat, and fever are the most common clinical manifestations faced by hajj pilgrims in Mecca. The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of respiratory symptoms among Malaysian hajj pilgrims and the effect of a few protective measures taken by hajj pilgrims to reduce respiratory symptoms.

Methods. A cross-sectional study was conducted by distributing survey forms to Malaysian hajj pilgrims at transit center before flying back to Malaysia. The recruitment of respondents to the survey was on a voluntary basis.

Results. A total of 387 survey forms were available for analysis. The mean age was 50.4 ± 11.0 years. The common respiratory symptoms among Malaysian hajj pilgrims were: cough 91.5%, runny nose 79.3%, fever 59.2%, and sore throat 57.1%. The prevalence of hajj pilgrims with triad of cough, subjective fever, and sore throat were 40.1%. The symptoms lasted less than 2 weeks in the majority of cases. Only 3.6% did not suffer from any of these symptoms. Seventy-two percent of hajj pilgrims received influenza vaccination before departure and 72.9% wore facemasks. Influenza vaccination was not associated with any of respiratory symptoms but it was significantly associated with longer duration of sore throat. Wearing masks was significantly associated with sore throat and longer duration of sore throat and fever.

Conclusions. The prevalence of respiratory symptoms was high among Malaysian hajj pilgrims and the current protective measures seemed inadequate to reduce it. Beside standardization of the term used in hajj studies, more collaborative effort should be taken to reduce respiratory symptoms. The hajj authority should prepare for the challenge of pandemic influenza by providing more healthcare facilities and implementation of more strict measures to reduce the transmission of pandemic influenza strain among hajj pilgrims.