Following the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has recommended that some categories of people postpone the performance of the Hajj and Umrah as a precautionary measure this year.
The people advised to postpone the Hajj and Umrah are: the elderly people, those with chronic diseases (heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, nervous system disorders and diabetes), immunodeficient patients (congenital and acquired), pregnant women and children.
Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) are strongly urging all travelling for Hajj and Umrah to familiarise themselves with the all the latest health and travel advice and information available on the NaTHNaC website.
Professor Nick Phin, head of respiratory diseases at PHE said: “With growing evidence indicating the role of camels in transmitting MERS-CoV to humans, we’re advising all travellers to the Middle East, particularly those with underlying or chronic medical conditions, to avoid contact with camels and camel products, and to practise good hand and respiratory hygiene to reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses.
“Pilgrims returning from Hajj and Umrah with flu-like symptoms including fever and cough, or shortness of breath within 14 days of being in the Middle East, should contact their GP without delay and inform them of their travel.”
Due to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, KSA will not issue visas to individuals who have travelled or lived in Ebola affected countries within the three weeks before their applications. All visitors to the KSA will be required to complete an Ebola screening card before being allowed to enter the country.
Dr Dipti Patel, joint director of NaTHNaC, said: “Our updated health information sheet for pilgrims includes information on health regulations, vaccine requirements, recommendations and general health advice for those planning to travel for the Hajj and Umrah. Pilgrims are strongly advised to follow our specific guidance about staying safe and healthy when travelling.”
Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health at PHE, said: “The Hajj is the largest annual international gathering, with more than two million Muslims travelling from around the world, including thousands from the UK. A large population in one confined area has historically increased the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, which is why it is important to get the relevant vaccinations and to get travel advice from your GP or travel health clinic.”
For the latest travel advice, please see the NaTHNaC website.