Are you making the Hajj pilgrimage this year?
The Hajj and Umrah is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the largest mass-gathering of people in the world, with nearly 3 million Muslims in attendance.
Due to the geographical location of the Hajj, and the large amount of people present, the pilgrimage presents some unique health risks to travellers. Fleet Street Clinic is a Specialist Travel Clinic and our expert medical team are able to offer travel vaccines and advice for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
A vaccination against Meningitis ACWY with a valid vaccination and certificate is required for all pilgrims in order to obtain a visa. Adults and children over the age of 2 years old will be required to take the vaccination and provide evidence of immunization. A conjugate vaccination (such as Nimenrix or Menveo ) should have been given within 8 years prior to travel, and a vaccination booklet with evidence of immunization is required.
Travellers should ensure they have been vaccinated against polio, which is a routine travel immunization combined with diphtheria and tetanus to provides protection for 10 years. However, if travelling from one of the countries listed below, the vaccination should have been given within 12 months prior to travel, and a certificate needs to be provided as proof of immunisation.
A Yellow Fever vaccination and certificate will be required for pilgrims who are entering Saudi Arabia from a country that has a risk of Yellow Fever, or are transiting through a country for more than 12 hours that has a risk of Yellow Fever. There is no risk of Yellow Fever disease in Saudi Arabia and the vaccination is not otherwise recommended.
All travellers should ensure they are up to ate with their routine immunisations, and ensure that thy have received at least 2 vaccinations against measles (usually given as the MMR combination). Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio.
Hepatitis A vaccinations should also be given for all travel to Saudi Arabia.
Hepatitis B, a virus spread via contaminated blood and bodily fluids. Pilgrims who intend to have their head shaved as one of the rites of Hajj should consider taking the vaccination. Although licensed barbers performing head shaving are obliged to use a new blade for each pilgrim, unlicensed barbers may not adhere to this practice. The vaccinations require 3 injections to be given over a 3-week period and can be given from birth.
Rabies a virus spread through the infected bite of an animal, such as dogs, cats, monkeys and bats. Saudi Arabia is classified as a high risk country for rabies. A series of 3 vaccinations can be given over a 3-week period and can be given from birth.
Influenza – a seasonal illness spread through respiratory droplets from an infected individual. Hajj and Umrah pose an increased risk die to crowded conditions and close contact with individuals. An influenza vaccination is advised, as well as strict precautions with personal hygiene to prevent the spread.
Travellers diarrhoea can occur in up to 60% of travellers. Eating and drinking, contaminated food and water are the usual culprits. Although most cases are mild, taking sensible precautions with food and water can reduce the risk. Carrying medicines for self-treatment is useful.
Saudi Arabia has had some of the hottest temperatures on record this year. Exposure to such high temperatures increases sweating, and results in loss of fluid and electrolytes causing rapid dehydration. This can result in heat exhaustion or heatstroke which can be life threatening if not dealt with promptly.
Heat-related illness can be avoided by the following:-
*Seek shelter and shade during the middle of the day (11am -3pm) when temperatures are at their hottest
*If you are outside, ensure you protect your skin against the sun with a high factor sun cream
*Wear lose fitting, light weight and light colour clothing
*Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and eating food with a high water content (such as fruit)
*Ensure you are taking in sufficient salt in your diet (sweating leads to electrolyte and salt depletion).
*Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can worsen heat related illness
MERS is spread by a virus that causes anything from a common cold to severe pneumonia and death. It is highly infectious and spreads easily, although how it spreads from person to person is not fully understood. There is no specific vaccination against MERS nor specialist treatment available. The best protection is preventative measures which includes:-
Throughout the country there is a risk of illness spread by flies and mosquitoes. Diseases include Chikungunya, dengue fever, leishmaniasis and Rift Valley fever.There are no vaccinations to protect against such illnesses and therefore protection against insect bites is essential to prevent infection.There is a very low risk of malaria in the cities of Jeddah and Mecca and anti-malarial medication is not routinely recommend for the Hajj. However, there is a risk out of these cities in the surrounding south-west of the country, and if travel to these regions is anticipated, malaria prophylaxis will be required.
Fleet Street Clinic is a specialist travel vaccine clinic in London. We offer a full range of vaccines and travel advice personalised to your needs. For more information, please call 020 7353 5678 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or book an apppointment online .
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