Latest health advice for Hajj pilgrims

By on 25/07/2013 in News

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).

The Hajj is the largest annual international gathering with more than three million Muslims travelling from around the world to make the pilgrimage including thousands from the UK.

This year Hajj is estimated to fall between 13 and 15 October 2013 and, although the World Health Organization does not currently advise any travel restrictions to Saudi Arabia in relation to MERS-CoV, 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 Huda Mohamed, health protection consultant for PHE West Midlands, added: “Many Muslims in the West Midlands will be planning to travel to Umrah during July, which is the month of Ramadan, and later in the year to perform Hajj. A large population from around the world confined to one area has historically increased the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, in particular diseases such as polio, influenza, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease and yellow fever, so pilgrims must get the most current travel advice and keep their vaccinations up to date.

“We also advise people to postpone travel if they are unwell or have chronic conditions like heart, kidney, respiratory diseases or diabetes. While people are abroad they should make sure they keep well hydrated, eat properly, get adequate rest, protect themselves from heat and sun, and practice good hand hygiene. People who return to the UK feeling unwell and who get progressively worse should call their GP or NHS 111 for advice.”

Notes

  1. 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 medications for your journey and properly label them for the ease of taking.
  2. 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.
  3. For the latest travel advice, please see the NaTHNaC website.
  4. General travel health advice for travellers to Saudi Arabia.
  5. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is the recommended name for what was previously called novel coronavirus.
  6. For more information about MERS-CoV please visit PHE's dedicated webpages.

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