Published On: Thu, Jun 12th, 2014

Saudi Arabia advises certain groups postpone Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages due to MERS outbreak

In response to international outbreaks of disease like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health recommends that the following groups postpone the performance of the Hajj and Umrah rituals this year for their own safety:  elderly people, pregnant women, children, and those with chronic diseases, such as heart diseases, kidney diseases, respiratory diseases, nervous system disorders, diabetes, and immune deficiency.

Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is estimated to fall during early October 2014. Umrah is a shorter, non-compulsory pilgrimage for Muslims that can be performed at any time

Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) experts strongly urge all pilgrims planning to undertake these pilgrimages to refer to this updated advice.

Dr Vanessa Field, joint director of NaTHNaC, said:

Our updated health information sheet for pilgrims includes information on health regulations, vaccine requirements, recommendations and general health advice for those planning to travel for the Hajj and Umrah. Pilgrims are strongly advised to follow our specific guidance about staying safe and healthy when travelling.

Professor Nick Phin, head of respiratory diseases at PHE said:

There is growing evidence of the possible role of camels in transmittingMERS-CoV to humans. We advise travellers, particularly those with underlying or chronic medical conditions, to avoid contact with camels in the Middle East and practise good hand and respiratory hygiene to reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses.

Pilgrims returning from Hajj and Umrah with flu-like symptoms including fever and cough, or shortness of breath within 14 days of being in the Middle East, should contact their GP without delay and inform them of their travel.

Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health at PHE, said:

The Hajj is the largest annual international gathering with more than 2 million Muslims travelling from around the world to make the pilgrimage which also includes thousands from the UK. A large population confined to one area has historically increased the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, in particular respiratory infections, which is why it is important to get the relevant vaccinations and to get travel advice from your GP or travel health clinic.

Globally, 683 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including 204 related deaths have officially been reported to WHO. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page



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- 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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