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General advice for pilgrims visiting Mecca

18 Aug. 2016 - 16:00
General advice for pilgrims visiting Mecca

This year, the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, will take place from 9 to 15 September. Like every year, several million pilgrims will go to Mecca to take part in this religious event.

Pilgrims are at highly increased risk for infectious diseases transmitted by nutrition (e.g. travellers’ diarrhoea), interpersonal contact (e.g. meningitis or bacterial inflammation of the protective membranes) and coughing (e.g. seasonal flu and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus).

We advise people travelling to the Arabian Peninsula to take the following precautions in order to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Regularly wash your hands with water and soap.
  • Also be sure to regularly use a hand sanitiser (gel or liquid) for your hands. Shops sell small bottles containing such disinfectants. We recommend putting some of this in your suitcase (do not put it in your hand luggage as it will be confiscated).
  • Always try to cook or fry food properly, and to peel raw fruit and raw vegetables. Do not drink water unless you are certain it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid contact with animals (especially birds) and their droppings.
  • Where possible, try to avoid close contact with people who show signs of a respiratory tract infection, such as coughing or sneezing.
  • Apply the rules of coughing hygiene: cough or sneeze into a paper tissue and throw the tissue into a rubbish bin after use.



Vaccine-preventable diseases

Ensure that you are up to date with the following vaccines:

Required vaccinations

In order to obtain a visa for Saudi Arabia, evidence of a meningitis vaccine is required. Belgium offers two vaccines that meet the requirements: Nimenrix® and Menveo® (a four-dose conjugate vaccine against meningococcal meningitis, ACYW135).

Highly recommended vaccines

  • Ensure that you are up to date with standard vaccines such as tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio and measles, in accordance with Belgium’s national standard vaccine administration programme (see late-administration programmes). As soon as the vaccine against the seasonal flu is available, it must be systematically administered (in mid-September, as the Hajj starts on 4 October). Vaccination with the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended in patients whose age and medical history put them at increased risk.

Other recommendations

  • We recommend that persons with a chronic disease (e.g. a cardiovascular disorder, diabetes, lung or renal insufficiency, etc.) consult their treating doctor or visit a Travel Clinic before considering a trip to Saudi Arabia.

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 exclude the possibility of MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus). 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 towel 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 will be able to make a diagnosis and administer the right type of care.