Hajj pilgrims urged to follow travel health advice as invasive meningococcal disease cases associated with travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reported


This year, the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage will take place between 14th June 2024 and 19th June, 2024 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The Hajj is one of the world’s largest religious events, taking place annually. Mass gatherings can pose public health challenges to the health of the attendees and the host country population and health services.

Pilgrims should follow travel health advice, including advice on basic infection control measures to reduce the risk of acquiring and spreading infections. The advice includes vaccination with required and recommended vaccines prior to the Hajj. It also includes advice on maintaining good handwashing and respiratory etiquette as well as ensuring all food is thoroughly cooked and avoiding mosquito bites.

Vaccination with the quadrivalent (ACWY) meningococcal vaccine at least 10 days before departure is particularly important. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) are aware of several cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in Europe and the USA since the start of 2024, associated with travel to the KSA. Almost all cases reported performing Umrah pilgrimage while in the KSA. The majority of cases belong to meningococcus serogroup W and have no history of meningococcus vaccination. ECDC assesses the risk of IMD as low for pilgrims visiting the Hajj and Umrah zones in KSA who are vaccinated with the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine, as they are protected thanks to vaccine-induced immunity. For unvaccinated pilgrims visiting these sites, the likelihood of infection is moderate. All travellers to the Hajj and Umrah zones in KSA eligible for vaccination, should receive the ACWY meningococcal vaccine at least 10 days before departure.

During or on return from the Hajj, pilgrims should seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms of an infection, e.g. fever, respiratory or gastrointestinal infections. Pilgrims should inform their healthcare provider of their travel history to the Hajj. Due to the presence of MERS-CoV disease in Saudi Arabia, people returning from the Hajj should be aware of the need to seek immediate medical advice if they have a fever (38ºC and over), cough or difficulties breathing within 14 days of their return.

For further information go to: Health Requirements (moh.gov.sa)