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Vital Signs

Saudi Arabia reports first swine flu death

  • Story Highlights
  • 30-year-old man dies in hospital after suffering high fever, cough, shortness of breath
  • Saudi Arabia has diagnosed more than 230 cases of the H1N1 virus this year
  • Concern in Saudi over possible impact of virus on Hajj later this year
  • Saudi government says it will set up quarantine centers at airports
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(CNN) -- Saudi Arabia has had its first death from swine flu, its Ministry of Health said Monday, bracing for more.

The patient -- a 30-year-old man who lived in the country's Eastern Province -- was admitted to a hospital in the city of Dammam on Wednesday with a high fever, cough and shortness of breath. He died Saturday.

Saudi Arabia has diagnosed more than 230 cases of the H1N1 virus this year.

In the past few weeks, a debate about the virus has erupted in the Middle East. Of particular concern is how to keep it from spreading among the millions of visitors expected in Saudi Arabia during this year's Hajj -- a pilgrimage required of Muslims at least once in their lives.

On Wednesday, Arab health ministers held an emergency summit in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss the issue. Guidelines were issued, banning various groups from participating in this year's Hajj -- children under 12, adults over 65 and people with chronic diseases. Saudi Arabia recommended that pregnant women stay home as well.

At the close of the meeting, Saudi Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah told CNN that, in all, Saudi Arabia had issued 15 recommendations to help ensure the safety and health of pilgrims participating in the Hajj.

"The most important of those is, first of all, that they should take the seasonal flu vaccine two weeks prior to Hajj," Al-Rabeeah said.

Even with the guidelines in place, World Health Organization spokesman Dr. Ebrahim el Khordany acknowledged that it won't be easy keeping potential pilgrims away.

El Khordany told CNN, "It was discussed in detail how it's going to be worked out between the country and Saudi Arabia to find out the best way to do it and, of course, to make sure that people don't try to use their connections to get their visas or to get to go to Saudi, because people are really very keen to go to the pilgrimage."

The Saudi government has also said it will set up quarantine centers at airports as another preventative measure.

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