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Hajj Diseases

Overcrowded conditions associated with pilgrimages trigger instant dissemination of disease leading to possible detrimental outbreaks.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health authorities in KSA encourage immunization against meningococcal as a preventive measure to avoid the acceleration of plausible diseases.

While hundreds of racial groups come together from all parts of the world, international travel can promote and accelerate the spread of disease leading to sickly accounts in the country and outside. Unfortunately, during Hajj pneumonia accounts for one third of the hospitalizations in Saudi Arabia while the invasive pneumococcal disease is estimated to be an incidence rate of 17.4 per 100,000 of the population with a poor fatality ratio of 12.20%.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – September 2016: Fortunately globalization has lead to greater amounts of people performing the holy Hajj pilgrimage with a yearly looming increase. Currently, an estimated 3 million Muslims are situated around the Holy Mosque in Makkah, causing an essential deprivation of sickly outbreaks and accounts. To offer preventive resolutions and raise a greater adoption towards such measures, leading health experts in KSA came together to raise awareness and address the media on the ‘Control of infectious diseases during Hajj: Role of vaccination against pneumococcal and meningococcal disease.’

Due to pilgrimage tradition, Pilgrims stay in semi-permanent tents with shared facilities, and are rather susceptible of humidity and heat compromised of general exhaustion from performing Hajj. The tight proximity between peoples is due to the crowded accommodation, congregation, and prayers creating an ideal environment for the transmission of infectious diseases, many of which are highly preventable if appropriate measures are taken.

Dr.Abdulhakeem Okab, Section Head and Consultant of Infectious Diseases Control at the Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs profoundly explains: ““Vaccination is critical for risk groups like elderly adults over 50 years of age and those with comorbidities like type 2 diabetes mellitus, hematological malignancy, organ and bone marrow transplantation or chronic kidney or lung diseases. Pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for adults to prevent the disease. In turn vaccination is considered one of the most successful and cost-effective of all health interventions”

The preemptive measures local authorities in the kingdom decided to adopt are necessary of such circumstances, introducing a mandatory proof for all travelers to present dictating meningococcal vaccination at port of entry.

Dr.Abdulhakeem further warns the failure of such compliancy will not only lead to localized Hajj outbreaks, but rather can result in further dissemination internationally.

Furthermore, compliance among Saudi pilgrims needs to also be addressed as residents do not have to provide proof of vaccination, leading to a dismissal of legislation towards this vaccination enforcement.

However, visitors arriving for the purpose of pilgrimage (Hajj) or for seasonal work are required to submit a certificate of vaccination against meningitis issued no more than 3 years and no less than 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia.5

Local health authorities have set-up vaccination facilities in each of the countries. The WHO claims that immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective of all health interventions, preventing between 2 million and 3 million deaths every year across individuals of all ages.

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