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Keywords:

  • Hajj;
  • influenza A/H1N1;
  • mass gatherings;
  • pandemic;
  • polymerase chain reaction;
  • travel

Please cite this paper as: Ziyaeyan et al. (2012) Pandemic 2009 influenza A H1N1 infection among 2009 Hajj Pilgrims from Southern Iran: a real-time RT-PCR-based study. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses 6(601), e80–e84.

Background  Hajj is a mass gathering undertaken annually in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The 2009 Hajj coincided with both the pandemic influenza A/H1N1 2009 (A(H1N1)pdm09) and seasonal types of influenza A viruses. The interaction between pandemic influenza and Hajj could cause both a high level of mortality among the pilgrims and the spread of infection in their respective countries upon their return home.

Objective  The present study attempted to determine the point prevalence of A(H1N1)pdm09 among returning Iranian pilgrims, most of whom had been vaccinated for seasonal influenza but not A(H1N1)pdm09.

Methods  Pharyngeal swabs were collected from 305 pilgrims arriving at the airport in Shiraz, Iran. RNA was extracted from the samples and A(H1N1)pdm09 and other seasonal influenza A viruses were detected using TaqMan real-time PCR. For A(H1N1)pdm09-positive samples, the sensitivity to oseltamivir was also evaluated.

Results  Subjects included 132 (43·3%) men and 173 (56·7%) women, ranging in age from 24 to 65 years. The A(H1N1)pdm09 virus was detected in five (1·6%) pilgrims and other influenza A viruses in eight (2·6%). All the A(H1N1)pdm09 were sensitive to oseltamivir.

Conclusions  Only five cases were found to be positive for A(H1N1)pdm09, and it seems unlikely that the arrival of infected pilgrims to their homelands would cause an outbreak of a new wave of infection there. Thus, the low morbidity and mortality rates among the pilgrims could be attributed to the characteristics of A(H1N1)pdm09, which causes morbidity and mortality in a way similar to the seasonal influenza infections, absence of high-risk individuals among the Iranian pilgrims, and the instructions given to them about contact and hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette.