Birmingham Muslims planning to travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual for the Hajj and Umrah have been urged to check the latest health advice before booking trips.
The Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca is expected to fall between September 9-14 while Umrah can be undertaken at any time of the year.
In recent years cases of Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have prompted warnings for at-risk groups not to travel to Saudi Arabia but Public Health England (PHE) and National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) do not currently advise any travel restrictions.
However pilgrims should continue to monitor advice from PHE and NaTHNaC and ensure they are up to date with all routine vaccinations.
Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, said: “If you’re undertaking Hajj or Umrah this year, be sure to visit your GP at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
“Pilgrims should also be prepared for the extremes of Saudi weather. It can be incredibly hot during the day, so remember to protect yourself from the sun and drink plenty of clean water (preferably bottled or boiled and cooled) to avoid dehydration. In contrast it can be very cold overnight, so you will need blankets or sleeping bags.”
Dr Gavin Dabrera, lead for MERS-CoV at PHE said: “MERS-CoV can cause a serious and sometimes deadly illness. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for MERS-CoV. However, by adopting certain precautions, you can protect yourself and others.
“There is strong evidence the dromedary camel is an important host species for transmitting MERS-CoV to humans. We strongly advise travellers to not drink camel milk or eat camel meat, and to avoid contact with camels in the Middle East. It is also very important to practise good hand and respiratory hygiene to reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses.
“Pilgrims returning from Hajj and Umrah with flu-like symptoms including fever and cough, or shortness of breath within 14 days of leaving the Middle East, should contact their GP immediately by phone and mention their travel history.”
General travel health advice for travellers going to Saudi Arabia is available from NaTHNaC’s Travel HealthPro website http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/locations/saudiarabia/
See also PHE’s information on MERS-CoV https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/middle-east-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-mers-cov-clinical-management-and-guidance