Flu Epidemic

RIYADH, August 4, 2009 (AFP) – A Sri Lankan man and a Saudi teenager suffering from a heart defect have died from swine flu, raising the country’s flu death toll to six, the Saudi health ministry said on Tuesday. The Sri Lankan man, 32, was found dead in his hotel room on Monday, while the 15-year-old Saudi failed to respond to treatment and died in hospital.

On Friday the ministry said total A(H1N1) flu infections had reached nearly 600, and the government said it was doubling surveillance efforts as the peak season approached for umrah, the Islamic minor pilgrimage, to Mecca and Medina.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world are expected to undertake the umrah during the month of Ramadan beginning in late August, heightening the threat of the disease spreading.

Another two million or more are expected for the hajj full pilgrimage beginning at the end of November.