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Guidance for Hajj and Umrah Pilgrims

Hajj 

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.

News

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:

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 [1].

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:

1. Saudi Ministry of Health Requirements and Health Matters. Riyadh: Ministry of Hajj. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [Accessed 13 Sep 2012]. Available from: http://www.hajinformation.com/main/t20.htm

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

3. National Travel Health Network and Centre. Advice for Pilgrims for the Hajj and Umrah Season of 1433 (2012). London: Health protection Agency. [Accessed 13 September 2012]. Available from: http://www.nathnac.org/pro/factsheets/pdfs/Hajj_Umrah.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:

References

  1. WHO update. Hajj 2010 available at http://www.who.int/ith/updates/20100930/en/
  2. Memish ZA. Health conditions for travelers to Saudi Arabia for (Hajj) for the year 1431H/2010. JIPH (2010) 3, 92—94, available at http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/1876-0341/PIIS1876034110000717.pdf
  3. WHO's International Travel and Health book, Chapter 9. Special groups of travelers available at http://www.who.int/ith/ITH2010chapter9.pdf

Epi Insight Articles

Vaccination recommendations for Saudi Arabia - Hajj 2010 - Epi Insight, Volume 11, Issue 11, November 2010

Hajj pilgrims must get vaccinated against influenza - Epi Insight, Volume 10, Issue 10, October 2009


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