Hajj pilgrims urged to be aware of MERS-CoV advice

The following is advice from Public Health England:

PHE and NaTHNaC remind pilgrims to refer to the health and travel advice for Hajj and Umrah.

4th August 2017

Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) are reminding Hajj pilgrims to be aware of the risk of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the Middle East.

The risk of infection to UK residents travelling to the Middle East remains very low and PHE, NaTHNaC and the World Health Organization do not currently advise any travel restrictions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in relation to MERS-CoV.

However, the KSA Ministry of Health is recommending the following groups to postpone the performance of the Hajj and Umrah as a precautionary measure again this year:

  • people aged over 65 years
  • those with long-term diseases (heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, nervous system disorders and diabetes)
  • individuals with congenital or acquired immunodeficiency
  • pregnant women and children

In KSA, cases of MERS-CoV occur throughout the year, with occasional peaks.

Dr Gavin Dabrera, MERS-CoV expert at PHE, said:

“We advise travellers to avoid contact with camels and to avoid consuming camel meat, camel milk or other camel products in the Middle East. We also encourage travellers to practise good hand hygiene

“Pilgrims who experience symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of returning from Hajj and Umrah should call their GP or NHS 111 and inform them of their recent travel.”

“We have worked with NaTHNaC to provide advice for pilgrims travelling to and returning from Hajj.”

Dr Dipti Patel, director of NaTHNaC, said:

“Our information sheet for pilgrims includes vaccine requirements and recommendations, health regulations and other general health advice for those planning to travel for the Hajj and Umrah. We strongly advise pilgrims to follow our specific guidance about staying safe and healthy when travelling.”

  • The annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), known as the Hajj, is due to take place between 30 August and 4 September this year, with many pilgrims travelling from the UK
  • General travel health advice for travellers going to Saudi Arabia is available from NaTHNaC’s website TravelHealthPro
  • See PHE’s information on MERS-CoV.