Health officials here have advised pilgrims going on ‘Umrah’, business travellers and tourists to Saudi Arabia to take basic precautions from Coronavirus, which has so far claimed over 100 lives, although there is no immediate sign of the threat of an outbreak.

Doctors have also advised travellers visiting China to be cautions due to the spate of cases of H7N9, a mutant of Avian Influenza virus, that are being reported in sizeable numbers.

Last year, during Haj season, between September and October, health officials here had conducted awareness campaigns among Hajis on the basic precautions needed to be taken up for Coronavirus in Saudi Arabia. While sporadic cases of swine flue continue to be reported in the State, fortunately, not a single case has surfaced so far in Hyderabad and elsewhere in the country.

“Coronavirus is a mutant of SARS virus and it is fatal. However, at this moment, there is no large movement of pilgrims from Hyderabad to Saudi. However, those who travel to Saudi for other reasons, should take precautions,” says State co-ordinator for Swine Flue, (H1N1 influenza) K. Subhakar.

Top health officials have advised travellers coming from Saudi Arabia and China to contact local doctors in case of symptoms, which are similar to influenza. “Travellers should make sure they contact a local physician as soon as possible if they are sick for more than two or three days. We do not have the capability to test for Coronavirus in Hyderabad and have to send samples to Pune and New Delhi,” says Additional Director, Communicable Diseases, Geetha Prasadini.

Health authorities said that banners on Coronavirus will be put up at Hyderabad International airport giving necessary directions to passengers. Last month saw a considerable reduction in the number of Coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia and nearby countries, they said.

“The idea is not to spread unnecessary panic among the travellers. Coronavirus and H7N9 cases have not been reported in India so far but this does not mean that travellers can relax. Basic precautions are mandatory for everyone,” Dr. Subhakar suggested.

On its part, even the Wold Heath Organisation (WHO) has issued alerts asking respective governments to make pilgrims of Haj and Umrah aware of the precautions.

“Vulnerable groups like the elderly, pregnant women and children who have compromised immunity levels should be careful. If possible, they should avoid going to places of mass gatherings. Influenza vaccines option under medical advice is also available,” Dr. Subhakar adds.

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