Pope Francis heading for Iraq despite concerns of infectious disease experts


Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq is setting off alarm bells with infectious disease experts who point to that nation’s sharp rise in cases, fragile health care system and the crowds that the pontiff will draw. Francis, who has been vaccinated, will be the first pope to visit the birthplace of Abraham. The March 5-8 trip is expected to provide a spiritual boost to Iraq’s Christians, a small, beleaguere­d minority within the overwhelmi­ngly Muslim population.

“It’s a perfect storm for generating lots of cases, which you won’t be able to deal with,” said Dr. Bharat Pankhania, an infectious disease control expert at the University of Exeter College of Medicine.

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