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Pilgrimage to Mecca

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Those concerned

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) is the largest religious gathering in the world. Each year, between the 8th and the 12th day of the 12th month of the Muslim calendar, more than 2 million Muslims coming from the four corners of the globe, gather in this single location.

The close proximity of people to one another resulting from this huge gathering and the requirements of the various rites can sometimes represent a potential risk to the health of pilgrims. The illnesses most frequently encountered among pilgrims to the Hajj are infectious diseases, but also cardiovascular problems, trauma and dehydration.

Here are a few preventive measures for the successful completion of the Hajj.

Vaccinations

Meningococcal meningitis

All pilgrims attending the Hajj or undertaking the Umrah, aged 2 years or over, must present a certificate of vaccination against meningitis A, C, Y and W135.

This vaccination must be more than 10 days old and less than 3 years old. This vaccination is available only from international vaccination centres such as the CMETE. Be aware that the meningitis vaccines found in pharmacies are A+C or C vaccines. These are not recognized by the Saudi authorities.

Flu

Respiratory infections are some of the most commonly diagnosed infections among participants in the pilgrimage. The close proximity to other people and exposure to significant variations in temperature (passing from locations in the sun where the temperature can reach 48°C in the summer, to prayer locations that are often very cool) help to promote this type of disease. The vaccination against flu is therefore recommended for all pilgrims. It is imperative for people with a high risk factor for complications (those over 65 years old, diabetics, those with breathing difficulties, etc.).

French vaccination schedule

It is recommended that pilgrims ensure they are up to date with their French vaccination schedule: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Poliomyelitis, Whooping cough, Measles, Hepatitis B.

Other vaccinations

Depending on one’s medical history and the conditions of the stay: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Pneumococcus.

Vaccination against yellow fever is required for all travellers coming from a high risk country.

Other preventive measures

Respiratory infections

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap or else with an alcohol-based solution.
  • Use disposable tissues.
  • Make sure you have with you a shawl or jumper to be used when you enter cooler areas (prayer locations, air-conditioned shops, etc.).

Digestive infections

  • Try to eat food that has been cooked. Avoid raw fruit and vegetables, unless they have been correctly washed and peeled. Be careful of ice cubes, ice cream and fresh fruit juices.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Saudi regulations forbid visitors and pilgrims to bring fresh food into Saudi Arabia.

Other infections

  • Hepatitis B is a disease transmitted sexually and via the blood. Transmission of the virus through the skin can occur when using affected instruments (medical, dental or other).
  • One of the rites of the pilgrimage consists for men of shaving one's head. The barbers certified by the Saudi authorities change the blade after each use. However, certain non-certified barbers sometimes use the same blade for several pilgrims. This practice represents a risk of transmission of hepatitis B.
  • Check your vaccination against hepatitis B. It can also be useful for men to have their own razor with them to complete this rite.

Pre-existing illnesses

  • Before your departure, consult with your treating physician; take your prescriptions with you, and documentation - in English - detailing the state of your health.
  • If you are following a treatment: you should plan to take with you a sufficient quantity of the medicines to cover you for a period one week longer than the planned duration of your stay.

Trauma

  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Avoid places of worship at the busiest times.
  • Allow for periods of rest (‘naps’) during the course of the day.

Sunstroke and dehydration

  • The average temperature varies between 30 and 45°C in the summer, sometimes reaching 48°C. There is therefore a very real risk of sunstroke and dehydration among pilgrims.
  • Remember to protect yourself by seeking shaded areas and using a parasol and sun cream.
  • Avoid the hottest hours of the day and make sure that you drink at least 2 Litres of water per day.

A consultation at the CMETE will allow you to receive all the vaccinations listed above and to explore in more detail with the doctors at the centre the preventive measures necessary to ensure that your pilgrimage goes well.

References

Health conditions for travelers to Saudi Arabia for Hajj for the year 1431H/2010. WHO WER no.43, volume 85

Advice for pilgrims for the Hajj and Umrah season of 1431(2010). NaTHNac

Recommandations sanitaires pour les voyageurs (Health recommendations for travellers), 2010. BEH 21-22/ 1er juin 2010 (1st June 2010)

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