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Kuwaitis return from mecca with swine flu

Swine flu has claimed 700 lives worldwide: WHO

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Eight Kuwaitis have tested positive for swine flu on their return from an Omra pilgrimage to Mecca and have been admitted to hospital, the Kuwaiti health ministry announced on Tuesday.

The Kuwaitis, including six women, "underwent laboratory tests, which confirmed their infection by the A(H1N1) virus," ministry spokesman Yussef al-Nisf.

"They are receiving the necessary treatment at the hospital and they are in stable condition," he said.

The new cases take the number of people in Kuwait confirmed to have contracted swine flu to 44, most of whom have now recovered, the spokesman said.

They are receiving the necessary treatment at the hospital and they are in stable condition

Ministry spokesman Yussef al-Nisf.

Countries warn against pilgrimage for vulnerable muslims

As well as the annual hajj, which all Muslims are required to make once in a lifetime if they have the means, the faithful can also make a lesser pilgrimage, known as Omra, to the holy places at any time of the year.

Egypt on Monday became the latest country to warn vulnerable Muslims against pilgrimage to Mecca, after a 25 year-old Egyptian woman back from Saudi Arabia became the first swine flu death in the Middle East and Africa.

In Iran, a health ministry official on Tuesday repeated calls for elderly Iranians and children to avoid travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage as the number of confirmed swine flu cases in the Islamic republic rose to 16.

Tunisia earlier this month suspended Omra pilgrimages because of the virus, while reserving judgment on whether the main hajj pilgrimage should be undertaken in November.

With upwards of two million people expected in Saudi Arabia over the next five months on pilgrimages to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, Egypt advised vulnerable Muslims to put their plans on hold.

The health ministry "has warned the elderly, pregnant women, children and those suffering from chronic illness not to perform the hajj or Omra pilgrimages," the official MENA news agency reported.

The warning came ahead of a meeting of Arab health ministers in Cairo on Wednesday to coordinate arrangements and precautions to be taken during the pilgrimage season.

Swine flu has now killed more than 700 people around the globe, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.