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Alzain : Articles : Travel Advice
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Travel Advice


TRAVEL ADVICE HAJJ & UMRAH

Travel Health Notice

The Hajj is the largest annual gathering in the world. Over two million people from nearly every country attend this spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

It is recommended that travellers to the Hajj get the vaccines required for entry by the Ministry of Saudi Arabia, and consider getting other vaccines recommended for travel to Saudi Arabia. Travellers should visit a travel health clinic at least 6 weeks before travel.

About Health Risks at the Hajj

The Hajj is a spiritual gathering of over two million people that takes place in Mecca, Saudi Arabia between the 8th and 13th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar. Due to the large number of people at this gathering, certain infectious diseases such as meningococcal disease, tuberculosis, influenza (including H1N1 flu), and gastrointestinal infections may be more easily spread between people. Travellers may also face a greater risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and physical injuries.

Recommendations for travellers

1) Follow requirements issued by the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia Full details of the requirements are available on the website of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Hajj, Saudi Arabia.

Seasonal Flu (Influenza) and H1N1 Flu Virus:
All travellers are strongly recommended to get the seasonal flu vaccine and, if available, the H1N1 vaccine at least two weeks prior to their departure for the Hajj. The age of Hajj pilgrims and Umrah performers should be above 12 and less than 65 years. Children and the elderly are advised to postpone their travels this year. The government and Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia has also advised that persons with chronic diseases, immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women should postpone the Hajj (and Umrah) pilgrimages this year for their own safety.

Meningococcal meningitis:
All travellers must provide proof of being vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis no less than 10 days and no more than three years before their arrival in Saudi Arabia. All adults and children over two years of age must be vaccinated with the meningococcal quadrivalent vaccine, which covers serogroups A, C, Y, and W135 of the bacterium. Routine childhood meningococcal vaccine generally used in Canada protect against serogroup C only. This is NOT sufficient for entry to Saudi Arabia.

Poliomyelitis:

All travellers from regions where polio is endemic (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sudan) must get vaccinated with oral polio vaccine 6 weeks before arrival and will be given another dose upon arrival. All travellers less than 15 years of age from countries that still show transmission of polio are recommended to be vaccinated 6 weeks before arrival and will be requested to show proof of vaccination against polio and will be required to receive a dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) when they arrive.

Yellow Fever:

All travellers arriving from countries where yellow fever is known to occur must provide a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate showing that they have had their vaccine no less than 10 days and not more than 10 years before their arrival to Saudi Arabia.

2) Protect yourself and others from the spread of influenza-like illness

  • a. If you are sick with symptoms from an influenza-like illness, delay travel or stay home:
    • Travellers should recognize signs and symptoms of influenza-like illness, and delay travel or stay home if not feeling well.
    • Travellers should note that they may be subject to quarantine measures in some countries including Saudi Arabia if showing flu-like symptoms.
  • b. Wash your hands frequently:
    • By washing your hands with soap under warm running water, you will reduce your chance of getting the flu.
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be used if soap and water are not readily available. It's a good idea to keep some with you in your pocket or purse when you travel.
  • c. Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:
    • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs. Remember to wash your hands afterwards.
  • d. Try to avoid contact with people who appear to have an acute respiratory illness

3) Get vaccinated against other diseases

1. Routine vaccines and adult boosters:

Travellers should be up-to-date with routine vaccines and adult boosters recommended for Canada. The routine schedule for childhood vaccines may need to be adjusted if a child is travelling.

2. Recommended vaccines for travel to the Hajj:

In addition to the requirements for entry to Saudi Arabia, travellers should consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid fever as well as measles, mumps, and rubella (if two doses have not been received and the traveller is born on or after 1970 in Canada).

4) Protect yourself against other diseases

  • Food- and water-related diseases: Protect yourself from diseases that can be spread when you consume contaminated food and water, and when you bathe in public facilities (hepatitis A, typhoid fever, cholera and traveller's diarrhea).
    • Boil it, cook it, peel it or leave it!
    • Always wash your hands before eating and drinking.
    • Only eat food that has been well cooked and is still hot when served. Avoid uncooked foods, especially shellfish and salads.
    • Drink and use ice made from purified water only (for example, water that has been boiled or disinfected with chlorine or iodine, or commercially bottled water in sealed containers). Carbonated drinks, including beer, are usually safe.
    • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and ice cream.
    • Avoid food from street vendors.
    • Avoid swimming in polluted or contaminated water.
    • Brush your teeth with purified or bottled water.
  • Insect- and tick-borne diseases: Protect yourself from diseases spread by mosquitoes such as malaria and dengue. There is a risk of malaria in Saudi Arabia outside the urban centres of Jeddah, Mecca, Medina and Ta'if.
    • Cover up: Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved, tucked-in shirts, long pants, shoes (not sandals), and a hat to cover exposed skin.
    • Use insect repellent on exposed skin.
      • Of the insect repellents registered in Canada, those containing DEET are the most effective
      • Use as directed by the manufacturer
      • Do not apply to cuts, abrasions or irritated skin
      • Do not spray directly on the face
      • Wash hands after application, to avoid contact with lips and eyes
      • When using sunscreen: Do not use insect repellent with DEET and sunscreen combination products
      • If application of sunscreen and repellent with DEET is required, apply the sunscreen first and let it soak into the skin for about 20 minutes, then apply repellent with DEET
      • Repellent should be washed off at the end of the day, before going to bed
    • Sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net
      • Ensure the net is intact (no tears or large holes)
      • Tuck it under the mattress
      • Ensure it is not touching you (or you may still be bitten through the net)
      • Use in playpens, cribs or strollers to protect infants and children against diseases spread by infected day-time biting mosquitoes
    • Consider your accommodations: Stay in well-screened or completely enclosed air-conditioned rooms
    • Inspect your body and clothing for ticks during outdoor activity and at the end of the day. Wear light-coloured or white clothing so that ticks can be more easily seen.
    • Apply a permethrin insecticide to your outerwear and shoes, and to tents and bed nets for greater protection
      • Use only products manufactured for clothing and gear and don't use them directly on skin
      • Permethrin-treated clothing is effective for up to 2 weeks or 6 washings.
    • Speak with your health care provider to seek advice further advice about malaria prevention.
  • Animal-related diseases: Protect yourself from diseases spread through contact with animals or animal products such as rabies, leptospiriosis and certain viral hemorrhagic fevers (e.g. Rift Valley fever).
    • Avoid close contact with wild or domestic animals even if they appear friendly, especially dogs and monkeys
    • Don't handle, feed or attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter