International SOS Shares Advice for Safe and Healthy Hajj Travel

22 October 2012 ,  —


International SOS offers health and wellness advice to support the estimated 2.8 million Muslims arriving in Mecca and Medina for the Hajj. This year the Hajj occurs on 24-29 October. Simple preventative measures and vigilance while travelling are advised to help maintain the health of pilgrims.

Dr Issam Badaoui, Medical Director, Dubai says: "The annual Muslim pilgrimage brings more than two million worshippers from around the world to Mecca each year. This large number of people can lead to crowded conditions. Moreover, many pilgrims will experience more physical activity than usual from the additional walking. Infectious disease can be a risk. However, solid preparation can help travellers preserve their health before, during and after their journey."

International SOS offers the following advice to Hajj pilgrims:
1. Comply with vaccination requirements: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj has made several vaccinations mandatory: Meningitis is required for all travellers. Proof of polio and yellow fever vaccination must be shown by travellers of a certain age or arriving from certain countries. Vaccination against meningococcal meningitis must be given at least ten days before arrival. In addition, make sure all your routine vaccinations are up to date, including measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria and pertussis. Consider Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid and influenza inoculations.

2. Reduce the risk of common illnesses: Good hygiene practices and washing hands frequently can help mitigate the risk of contracting an infectious disease. Be careful in your selection of food and drinks to reduce the risk of traveller's diarrhoea. If you can't "boil it, peel it, cook it or wash it", don't eat it.
While malaria is not found in Mecca or Medina, it is present in other areas of Saudi Arabia - travellers can protect themselves by avoiding mosquito bites and taking anti-malarial  medications as appropriate. In crowded places, consider wearing a mask and cover coughs and sneezes.

3. Keep hydrated to avoid heat stroke: Minimise time spent in the sun especially when it's strongest--from 10 am to 4 pm. Drink plenty of fluids, protect the face and eyes with a hat and sunglasses, and wear sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher. If you feel dizzy or weak, immediately rest in a cool shaded area. If the symptoms continue, seek medical attention.

4. Practical issues:  Arrival at Jeddah International Airport can be crowded. It may take several hours to go through customs and immigration, and several hours to be transported to the reception centre. As with any trip, carry a photocopy of your passport and leave an additional photocopy with a trusted person in your home country. This is especially important during Hajj, as the Pilgrim Guides Association collects and holds pilgrims' passports. Accommodation availability is very low, so make bookings well in advance and reconfirm them before travel.

5. Stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings: Safety risks in Saudi Arabia remain low compared to international standards. Travellers should be aware of their surroundings and belongings. It is best to follow local guidelines and pilgrimage routes as indicated as part of local crowd management efforts.  


Notes to Editors

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