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Published On: Tue, Oct 2nd, 2012

Infectious disease prevention at the Hajj

The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world. In 2012, it takes place October 24–27. It draws about 3 million Muslims from around the world, and more than 11,000 Americans make the pilgrimage each year. Because of the number of people crowded into a relatively small space, mass gatherings such as the Hajj are associated with unique health risks, including infectious disease risks.

Mecca, Hajj

Public domain photo/ Yousefmadari at the wikipedia project

Because they bring together large numbers of people from all around the world, mass gatherings such as the Hajj create an ideal environment for spreading infectious diseases. Because outbreaks of meningococcal disease used to be a problem during the Hajj, the Saudi Ministry of Health now requires all pilgrims to receive the meningococcal vaccine, and Hajj visas cannot be issued without proof of vaccination. Polio vaccine is not required for pilgrims from the United States, but it’s best to receive an adult booster before travel. CDC also recommends vaccination against hepatitis A and B and typhoid for travel to Saudi Arabia, and all travelers, regardless of destination, should be up-to-date on routine vaccines (such as measles and pertussis) and should receive an annual flu shot.

Since not all infectious diseases can be prevented by vaccines, you should also wash your hands often, sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve (if no tissue is around), and keep your distance from people who look sick.

The Washington Post reports that the Saudi Arabian health minister says a new respiratory virus related to SARS that has infected two people does not pose a threat to the more than 1 million Muslims set to embark on the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the kingdom.

Abdullah al-Rabeeah said Monday the novel coronavirus has so far been contained.

Diarrhea is common during Hajj, so eat only food that is cooked and served hot and drink only beverages from sealed containers. Men are required to shave their heads after Hajj, and unclean blades can transmit disease. Male pilgrims should go to officially designated centers to be shaved, where barbers are licensed and use disposable, single-use blades.

Click here for other health and safety advice related from the CDC

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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