Saudi security officers wearing masks
Saudi Arabia is asking pilgrims to cover their mouths with a mask while in crowded places -- or risk spreading a deadly disease.
In four months, the holy city of Mecca opens its doors to millions of Muslim pilgrims for the annual Hajj, with multitudes congregating at the same holy places at the same time. Others visit during the holy month of Ramadan, which started last week.
It's a perfect scenario for catching and spreading the relatively new Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has befallen Saudi Arabia almost exclusively, state-run SPA news agency reports.
The ailment, caused by the coronavirus, wreaks havoc on the respiratory systems of those who contract it, reports CNN.
More than half of those known to have caught it have died. Of 81 infected worldwide, 45 have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
Of the total cases, 66 were in Saudi Arabia, where 38 people succumbed to it.
It mainly affects older men, the CDC says. So far, there is little to indicate that it could become the kind of deadly pandemic SARS was, though it is caused by a related virus.
All Muslims must undertake the journey at least once in their lifetime, and the government is telling them to add some preventative health requirements to their spiritual rituals.
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