Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) urges all pilgrims to familiarise themselves with this advice, which is available on the NaTHNaC website.
In line with the World Health Organization (WHO), PHE and NaTHNaC do not currently advise any travel restrictions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in relation to the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Overall the risk of UK residents travelling to the Middle East contracting the virus remains very low. However, cases reported from KSA continue to increase, 1149 by 31 May 2015, and there have now been 431 deaths, occurring mainly among KSA residents.
In response to international outbreaks of disease, the KSA Ministry of Health has urged the following groups to postpone the performance of the Hajj and Umrah as a precautionary measure again this year, for their own safety:
- elderly people
- those with chronic diseases (heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, nervous system disorders and diabetes)
- immunodeficient patients (congenital and acquired)
- pregnant women and children
Dr Richard Pebody, head of respiratory diseases at PHE said:
There is growing evidence of the possible role of camels in transmitting MERS-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 immediately and inform them of their travel.
Dr Dipti Patel, joint director of NaTHNaC, said:
Our information sheet for pilgrims includes information on health regulations, vaccine requirements and recommendations, and other 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.
Umrah is a shorter, non-compulsory pilgrimage for Muslims that can be performed at any time. Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
General travel health advice for travellers going to Saudi Arabia is available from the NaTHNaC website.
See PHE’s information on MERS-CoV.