The Hajj 2017 Advice
The Hajj pilgrimage
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to perform Hajj once in a lifetime if they are physically and financially able to make the sacred journey to Makkah. Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world make the journey to Mecca (Saudi Arabia) for the performance of Hajj. The Hajj takes place from the 8th through the 12th of Dhu al-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic year. The Hajj period varies because of the difference between lunar and solar calendars.
Update for 2017
Hajj will take place between 30 August and 4 September 2017. Further information regarding the health advices can also be found on Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health’s website. The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that elderly people, pregnant women, children, as well as those suffering from chronic diseases (e.g. heart diseases, kidney diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes), and persons with immune deficiency (congenital and acquired) and tumours to postpone the performance of Hajj and Umrah in this year for their own health. Pilgrims can reduce the potential health risks by taking some simple precautions for their pilgrimage duties.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
MERS-CoV is a new virus that has caused respiratory illness in a number of people in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. Most people infected with MERS-CoV had severe illness and pneumonia, and about half of them have died. Although the virus is not easily spread between people, there has been evidence of spread from person to person through extended close contact. Pilgrims living and travelling in close quarters may be at risk.
Pilgrims can help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by washing their hands often; not touching their mouth, nose, or eyes; and avoiding contact with sick people.
The Saudi Ministry of Health also recommends wearing masks in crowded places, avoiding direct contact with camels, avoiding undercooked camel meat and avoiding drinking raw camel milk.
Pilgrims should pay attention to their health when travelling in the Arabian Peninsula, and seek medical care if they develop a fever and cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after returning from their trip.
There is no vaccine currently available to protect against MERS-CoV.
What are the health risks?
During Hajj days, the risk of infections such as influenza, meningococcal disease and pneumonia may increase because of the overcrowding.
Drinking and eating contaminated products under the hot weather conditions is common causes of diarrheal disease for pilgrims during Hajj period. The main reasons of death in travellers to Hajj are cardiovascular disease (such as strokes and heart disease) and heat-related illness.
Road traffic accidents are also a major cause of injury and death as pilgrims may walk long distances near or through heavy traffic.
Before you travel
Make an appointment to see your GP or travel clinic at least four weeks prior to departure date to discuss your fitness to travel, what vaccines you need and what health precautions you should take.
If you take regular medicines, make sure you take enough to cover the whole time you will be away and carry a doctor's letter to avoid confusion at customs.
Make sure you review the advice published each year on the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health website which includes advice on the health requirements for receiving entry to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.
Advice to pilgrims for healthy travel
- Hajj pilgrims should stay well hydrated, wear sunscreen, and seek shade when possible. Some rituals may also be performed at night to avoid daytime heat.
- Drink water and beverages that are sealed or known to have been purified, and eat food that is served piping hot or fruit that you have peeled yourself.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or disinfectant hand cleanser.
- For shaving, be aware that unclean razors can transmit viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. Travellers should be shaved using disposable blades at officially designated centres, or use their own disposable blades and avoid sharing personal hygiene tools.
- Follow road safety rules to avoid injuries. Take extra care when crossing roads and always wear a seatbelt when travelling in motor vehicles.
- Try to avoid the most densely crowded areas during Hajj and, when options exist, perform rituals at non-peak hours.
What if I get sick?
If you get sick while overseas or on your return, seek prompt medical attention.
Be aware of how to manage travellers diarrhoea, including drinking plenty of fluids made up with oral rehydration salts (ORS) to avoid dehydration. ORS sachets are available from your local pharmacy.
Also, be aware of the early symptoms of the meningococcal disease which may include fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, weakness, neck stiffness and a rash. If you develop these symptoms you need to seek medical attention immediately.