As per the recent rules put forth by the authorities of Saudi Arabia, individuals who have been in contact with MERS patients may not be allowed to perform the holy pilgrimage 'Hajj.'These rules are a part of the precautionary measure taken by the authorities to ensure that the pilgrimage is performed smoothly and without the risk of the highly contagious disease spreading among an expected two million Muslim individuals from different parts of the globe.

With the recent month witnessing the confirmation of 71 new cases of individuals affected by MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), the authorities are now attempting to bring the situation under controlby all possible means.

Since its appearance, a total of 1,173 cases havebeen reported, with the fatality rate going as high as 502 individuals owing to the recent outbreak in Riyadh.

The MERS virus tends to cause symptoms such as breathing difficulties, fever, pneumonia and even kidney failure in the affected individuals.

The sole comforting fact in this rather grave situation is that the outbreak seems to be concentrated at theKing Abdulaziz Medical Center in Riyadh, and researchers believe that in most cases, this virus has spread in hospital settings as opposed to in open areas."When [so many] health care workers were becoming victims of the virus - that made an alert that there's something wrong, this is not a joke.

[We realized] we need to stand up and put very strong infection control measures in,"Dr Hani Jokhdar from King Fahd Hospital, explained.

Prolonged exposure to the MERS virus (common in hospitals) coupled with poor ventilation seems to be the causing the rapid spread of the virus in the region. However, the government's scientific advisor on MERS, Prof Tariq Madani, seems to have it covered.

"We've done a lot of work to ensure Hajj goes smooth without any [Mers] cases," he explained."Being a virus transmissible from human to human is a big concern for Hajj. We have overcrowding and this is an excellent medium for a respiratory infection to spread."