Birmingham Muslims planning to travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage have been urged to check the latest health advice before making the journey.
Further advice has been issued in the light of the on-going cases of Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is estimated to fall during early October 2014 and many people make plans during the holy month of Ramadan.
The World Health Organisation does not currently advise any travel restrictions to Saudi Arabia in relation to MERS-CoV but the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has recommended that the following groups postpone the performance of the Hajj and Umrah this year for their own safety:
- the elderly (over 65 years of age)
- those with chronic diseases (such as heart, kidney or respiratory disease, diabetes), immune deficiency, cancer and terminal illnesses)
- pregnant women and children under 12 years of age
Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, said: “Although there have only been a relatively small number of confirmed MERS-CoV cases worldwide, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health has advised vulnerable people and children who may have been planning to travel to the Middle East to perform the Hajj or Umrah to postpone their pilgrimage.
“Other people should continue with their plans but follow the specific guidance on the Hajj and Umrah, and other general advice about staying safe and healthy when travelling.”
Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health at Public Health England, added: “The Hajj is the largest annual international gathering with more than two million Muslims travelling from around the world to make the pilgrimage which also includes thousands from the UK. A large population confined to one area has historically increased the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, in particular respiratory infections, which is why it is important to get the relevant vaccinations and to get travel advice from your GP or travel health clinic.”
MERS-CoV is a new type of coronavirus, first identified in a Middle Eastern citizen in 2012. Although cases continue to be reported from the Middle East, no new cases of MERS have been detected in the UK since the cases linked to the Middle East in February 2013.
As of 10 July 2014, the Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia has reported 721 cases of MERS, including 295 deaths, occurring mainly among residents. The risk to most travellers is still considered to be very low. The World Health Organization (WHO) does not currently advise any travel restrictions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in relation to MERS.
- If you suffer from any ailment such as a heart or chest condition or diabetes, tell your doctor or specialist well in advance of your intention to undertake this journey and ask their advice on how to reduce your chances of becoming ill. Also ask them for a report to carry with you, with a list of your usual medications. Please take enough medication for your journey and properly label them for the ease of taking.
- There are no travel restrictions to the Middle East and the risk to travellers remains very low. There is no change to (other) travel advice.
- For the latest travel advice, please see the NaTHNaC website.
- General travel health advice for travellers to Saudi Arabia.
- Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is the recommended name for what was previously called novel coronavirus.
- For more information about MERS-CoV please visit PHE's dedicated webpages.