Muslim Pilgrim Dies of Swine Flu During Annual Haj

Saudi health authorities report victim was 70-year-old man from Pakistan; Saudis reported 4 H1N1 deaths in lead up to pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabian authorities reported on Saturday that a pilgrim had died of the H1N1 flu virus, or swine flu, on the third day of the massive Muslim haj which experts fear could trigger new waves of the pandemic.

The victim was a 70-year-old man from Pakistan, the Health Ministry said in a statement on the official news agency.

Saudi Arabia reported four pilgrim deaths from the H1N1 flu virus in the days leading up to the start of the haj rituals, which began on Wednesday.

Some 3 million Muslim pilgrims take part in the haj in the holy city of Mecca every year, including up to 2 million who travel from abroad.

Disease experts from the United States and Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, say that waves of H1N1 flu virus spread by pilgrims traveling to and from Mecca for this year's haj threaten to put pressure on healthcare systems around the world.

The pilgrimage provides perfect conditions for the spread of the H1N1 flu virus, which is transmitted by sneezing and physical contact.