Background. Respiratory illness continues to exert a burden on hajj pilgrims in Makkah. The purpose of this study is to determine the prevalence of respiratory illness and its associated factors among Malaysian hajj pilgrims in 2013 and to describe its preventive measures.
Methods. A cross-sectional study was conducted in Makkah and Malaysia during the 2013 hajj season. A self-administered proforma on social demographics, previous experience of hajj or umrah, smoking habits, co-morbid illness and practices of preventive measures against respiratory illness were obtained.
Results. A total of 468 proforma were analysed. The prevalence of the respiratory illness was 93.4% with a subset of 78.2% fulfilled the criteria for influenza-like illness (ILI). Most of them (77.8%) had a respiratory illness of <2 weeks duration. Approximately 61.8% were administered antibiotics but only 2.1% of them had been hospitalized. Most of them acquired the infection after a brief stay at Arafat (81.2%). Vaccination coverages for influenza virus and pneumococcal disease were quite high, 65.2% and 59.4%, respectively. For other preventive measures practices, only 31.8% of them practiced good hand hygiene, ∼82.9% of pilgrims used surgical face masks, N95 face masks, dry towels, wet towels or veils as their face masks. Nearly one-half of the respondents (44.4%) took vitamins as their food supplement. Malaysian hajj pilgrims with previous experience of hajj (OR 0.24; 95% CI 0.10–0.56) or umrah (OR 0.19; 95% CI 0.07–0.52) and those who have practiced good hand hygiene (OR 0.35; 95% CI 0.16–0.79) were found to be significantly associated with lower risk of having respiratory illness. Otherwise, pilgrims who had contact with those with respiratory illness (OR 2.61; 95% CI 1.12–6.09) was associated with higher risk.
Conclusions. The prevalence of respiratory illness remains high among Malaysian hajj pilgrims despite having some practices of preventive measures. All preventive measures which include hand hygiene, wearing face masks and influenza vaccination must be practiced together as bundle of care to reduce respiratory illness effectively.