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General advice for Mecca pilgrims

27-06-17

Image 1/1 : picture of thousants of moslims on the square in mekka for their Hadj , their pilgrimage

This year, the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, will take place from 30 August to 4 September. Like every year, several million pilgrims will go to Mecca to take part in this religious event.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a viral respiratory tract infection that can cause severe pneumonia and is fatal in approximately 30% of cases. In particular, people with an underlying illness (such as diabetes, chronic kidney problems, immunosuppression,...) have a higher risk of developing complications. People can become infected through contact with dromedaries or products from dromedaries (such as milk) or through contact with an infected person.

Infection with the MERS-CoV can be prevented by avoiding contact with dromedaries and their products and by avoiding contact with sick people.

Travellers who present with symptoms such as fever, coughing or respiratory problems less than two weeks after their return from the Arabian Peninsula must consult a doctor as soon as possible to rule out the possibility of MERS-CoV. If, upon your return, you are running a fever and coughing, consider the possibility of MERS-CoV and steer clear of other people. In addition, cover your mouth and nose with a paper tissue when sneezing or coughing, throw the tissues into a rubbish bin with a lid and be sure to wash your hands afterwards. Specialist Belgian hospitals (e.g. the UZA or other hospitals with an Infectious Diseases department) will be able to make a diagnosis and administer the right type of care.

The following recommendations should be followed to prevent other types of infection:
  • Hand hygiene: regularly wash your hands with water and soap
  • Food hygiene: avoid raw or undercooked foods
  • Respiratory hygiene: keep a distance of 1 metre away from other people if you have a fever. Cover your mouth and nose with a paper tissue when sneezing or coughing and throw the tissue away. Wash your hands afterwards
  • Avoid contact with animals and birds and their droppings, specifically camels and dromedaries
  • Where possible, try to avoid close contact with people who show signs of a respiratory tract infection, such as coughing or sneezing.

VACCINATIONS:

The following vaccinations are recommended:

In order to obtain a visa for the pilgrimage to Mecca, proof of a meningitis ACWY vaccine is required. For more info about meningitis.

Ensure that you are up to date with standard vaccines such as tetanus, diphteria, pertussis, polio and measles, in accordance with Belgium's national standard vaccine administration programme.

The vaccine against the seasonal flu is recommended particularly for people who have underlying conditions. Usually the flu vaccine only becomes available during September.

Some people with underlying conditions should also consider vaccination against pneumococci.

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