Public Health England (PHE) in the West Midlands is advising pilgrims to take the necessary precautions before, during and after travelling to Saudi Arabia, in order to have the best chance of staying healthy.
PHE, NaTHNaC (National Travel health Network and Centre) and the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) work closely together, and are reminding people planning to perform Umrah or Hajj (which falls between 13 and 15 October this year) to check the latest health guidance, as further advice has been issued in the light of the ongoing cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Although the World Health Organization (WHO) is not currently advising travel restrictions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in relation to MERS-CoV, in addition to the usual health recommendations the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has recommended the following groups postpone the performance of Umrah and Hajj this year for their own safety:
- People over 65 years of age
- Those with chronic diseases such as heart, kidney or respiratory disease; diabetes, immune deficiency, cancer and terminal illnesses
- Pregnant women and children under 12 years of age
Dr Huda Mohamed, health protection consultant for PHE West Midlands, said: “Many Muslims in the West Midlands will be planning to travel to Umrah during July, which is the month of Ramadan, and later in the year to perform Hajj. A large population from around the world confined to one area has historically increased the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, in particular diseases such as polio, influenza, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease and yellow fever, so pilgrims must get the most current travel advice and keep their vaccinations up to date.
“We also advise people to postpone travel if they are unwell or have chronic conditions like heart, kidney, respiratory diseases or diabetes. While people are abroad they should make sure they keep well hydrated, eat properly, get adequate rest, protect themselves from heat and sun, and practice good hand hygiene. People who return to the UK feeling unwell and who get progressively worse should call their GP or NHS 111 for advice.
“In February 2013 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection was diagnosed in a Birmingham resident who had travelled to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia 10 days before falling ill. Two further cases occurred among family members who had not travelled, and sadly two of the people died.
“Following this tragic event, the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) contacted Public Health England (PHE) for advice to help safeguard the health of travellers. PHE also works closely with WHO (the World Health Organization) and KSA (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), to ensure that messages to travellers across the world are all within current guidelines. At this time, the advice from Saudi Arabia is that elderly people, those with chronic conditions, immunity deficiency, as well as children and pregnant women, should postpone pilgrimage for Umrah and Hajj in 2013.”
Anybody travelling from the West Midlands to Saudi Arabia can get the latest travel advice by visiting http://nathnac.org/travel/factsheets/Hajj_Umrah.htm