Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is the largest gathering of its kind in the world, with over two million Muslims attending.
In advance of travelling to Hajj or Umrah, pilgrims are required to have received the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (ACW135Y) within the last three years and should ensure that they are up to date on their other immunisations.
Hajj takes place between the eight and twelfth day of the last month of the Islamic calendar. Umrah, the “minor” or “lesser” pilgrimage to Mecca, can be undertaken at any time of year.
Hajj and Umrah travellers with pre-existing medical conditions should be advised to consult a healthcare provider to review the risk before deciding to make the pilgrimage and identify a trusted healthcare facility prior to travel in the case of a health emergency during their stay. Travellers who require medical care should minimise contact with other sick people in the facility.
The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends the elderly people, pregnant women, children, as well as those suffering from chronic diseases (e.g. heart diseases, kidney diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes), and persons with immune deficiency (congenital and acquired) and tumors to postpone the performance of Hajj and Umrah in this year for their own safety.
MERS-CoV travel advisory for those travelling to the Middle East
In the Arabian Peninsula and neighbouring countries*, since September, 2012, cases of severe respiratory illness due to a novel coronavirus infection (MERS-CoV) have occurred. As of 13th July, 82 cases have been detected globally, some of these arising in persons who had travelled to Europe from this region. Some cases have been passed from person to person, although there is no evidence of sustained spread from person to person currently. The source of the infection is unknown. It is likely to come from an animal or the environment. See WHO for further information.
If you are travelling to the Middle East, you should:
Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections and wash your hands after contact with ill people and their environment.
Practice good hygiene, i.e. wash your hands with soap and water after contact with the environment, or animals. Regular hand washing is one of the most important ways to prevent spread of infection.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
Adhere to food safety and hygiene rules, such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables unless they have been peeled, or drinking unsafe water.
Avoid close contact with animals or their waste products.
On return from this region, if you become ill with respiratory symptoms or other severe symptoms within 14 days, seek medical attention, and let your doctor know of your recent travel to this region. People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands) and delay travelling until they are no longer symptomatic, to reduce any exposure to other passengers.
*Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen
Hajj and Umrah 2013 The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world. This year, it will take place from approximately October 13 to 18. Hajj draws about 3 million Muslims from around the world. Umrah is a similar pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time of the year, but it is likely to be more crowded during the month of Ramadan (approximately July 9 to August 7, 2013) than at other times of the year. Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj and Umrah are associated with unique health risks.
This year the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: recommends that the following groups should postpone their plans for Hajj and Umrah: the elderly (above 65 years of age), those with chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, diabetes), those with immune deficiency (congenital and acquired), malignancy and terminal illnesses, pregnant women and children (under 12 years of age).
WHO Interim Travel Advice WHO issued interim travel advice on MERS-CoV for pilgrimages to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, located here.
At this time, WHO do not advise special screening at points of entry nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restriction or changing travel plans for Hajj or Umrah because of MERS.
Health requirements for pilgrims attending the Hajj
Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The 2012 Hajj is expected to gather over two million Muslims from more than 180 countries across the globe between 24 and 29 October and is by far the largest mass gathering in the world. With the Hajj approaching, the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia has issued information in Arabic and English about health requirements and recommendations on its website .
A publication in the Weekly Epidemiological Record informs visitors in English and French of the full requirements for entry into Saudi Arabia and information is also available in English from The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) website [2,3].
Special requirements for visitors to the Hajj concern vaccinations against meningococcal meningitis. For individuals coming from countries where polio and yellow fever occur vaccination is also required (the latter are not specifically relevant to those travelling from Ireland).
Before travel it is always a good idea to make sure you are up to date on all your vaccinations including measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio, as well as other vaccines if indicated.
Meningococcal meningitis Visitors are required to produce a certificate of vaccination with the quadrivalent (ACYW135) vaccine against meningitis issued not more than 3 years previously and not less than 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia.
Poliomyelitis Although Poliomyelitis has not been reported in Ireland for many years, all travelers to Saudia Arabia should ensure that they are up to date on all vaccines (including polio vaccine).
Seasonal influenza is recommended for travelers to the Hajj, particularly those at risk of severe complications.
For more information please see the following references:
2. World Health Organization. Health conditions for travellers to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). Wkly Epidemiol Rec. 87:277-80, 2012. [Accessed 5 September 2012]. Available at: http://www.who.int/wer/2012/wer8730.pdf
Vaccination recommendations for Saudi Arabia - Hajj 2010
Requirements and recommendations for entry visas for the Hajj seasons in 2010 have been published in the latest issue of the Saudi Arabian "Journal of Infectious Diseases and Public Health".2
The Hajj, is the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. The exact dates of Islamic holidays cannot be determined in advance, due to the nature of the Islamic lunar but it is expected to fall in mid November, 2010.
During the Hajj, more than 2 million Muslims from all over the world congregate to perform their religious rituals. The potential for spread of infectious diseases associated with this pilgrimage has long been recognized. Throughout its 14-century history, the Hajj has been witness to a series of major health issues: historical records document outbreaks of plague and cholera, involving large numbers of pilgrims, when quarantine was the prime means of control.3
Overcrowding contributes to the potential dissemination of airborne infectious diseases or infections associated with person-to-person transmission. Extensive outbreaks of meningococcal disease among pilgrims have prompted the Saudi Arabian health authorities to introduce mandatory vaccination.3
Recommended vaccinations for pilgrims travelling from Ireland:
Routine vaccinations (such as measles, mumps, poliomyelitis, tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis B) should be up to date
Quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (A, C, Y and W135). All adults and children over the age of 2 years are required to demonstrate vaccination with 1 dose of quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (ACYW135) issued not more than 3 years previously and not less than 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia.
Seasonal influenza vaccine is recommended, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions (e.g. the elderly, people with chronic chest or heart diseases or cardiac, hepatic or renal failure)
Pneumococcal vaccination for those aged over 65 years and those who would benefit from it because of underlying medical conditions
Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for non-immune pilgrims