The Ministry of Health is advising persons making the annual Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, October 2 to 7, to take a number of health precautions, including postponing travel if they fall into the category of a vulnerable group.
The recommendations, issued by the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia, are in keeping with International Health Regulations.
Several persons in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, are currently suffering from a respiratory illness called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).
Saudi health officials have recommended that vulnerable groups such as persons over age 65, children under 12, pregnant women, persons with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart, kidney or respiratory diseases, persons with weakened immune systems and those with cancer and terminal illnesses should all cancel plans to travel for Hajj this year.
The virus is spread from person to person through close contact. Symptoms include acute respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing problems. Individuals who develop symptoms during travel or after their return are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their doctor.
Persons who are making the pilgrimage are advised that for entry visas into Saudia Arabia, they must provide proof of vaccination with the quadrivalent vaccine against meningitis, issued not more than three years previously and not less than 10 days before travel. The Ministry of Health further recommends vaccination against seasonal influenza as well as polio before travelling.
To lower their risk of infection, the Ministry urged travellers to adhere to hygiene precautions such as frequent hand-washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitisers, drinking water boiled for at least four minutes and drinking safe beverages such as tea and coffee made with boiled water and drinks that have been bottled and sealed such as bottled water and carbonated drinks.
They are further advised to avoid putting ice into drinks, avoid undercooked or raw fish or shellfish as well as salads or other raw vegetables. They should only eat fruit which they have peeled themselves and refrain from consuming foods and beverages from street vendors.Travellers are also warned against bringing food, especially seafood, back to Barbados.