Birmingham Hajj and Umrah pilgrims advised to check health advice

Respiratory virus prompts health advice and warnings for pilgrims

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Birmingham Muslims are being advised to check the latest health advice before journeying to Saudi Arabia for Umrah and the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Due to concerns of Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), pilgrims are being urged to check the up to date advice from Public Health England and National Travel Health Network Centre.

Particularly, it is advised all travellers stay up to date with all their routine vaccinations.

Dr Adrian Phillips, Birmingham Director of Public Health, said “if you’re undertaking Hajj or Umrah this year, be sure to visit your GP at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.

“Pilgrims should also be prepared for the extremes of Saudi weather. It can be incredibly hot during the day, so remember to protect yourself from the sun and drink plenty of clean water (preferably bottled or boiled and cooled) to avoid dehydration.

“In contrast it can be very cold overnight, so you will need blankets or sleeping bags.”

Travellers are also being advised to refrain from camel milk and camel meat and to avoid contact with camels altogether.

The lead for MERS-CoV at PHE, Dr Gavin Dabrera, said “MERS-CoV can cause a serious and sometimes deadly illness. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for MERS-CoV. However, by adopting certain precautions, you can protect yourself and others.

“There is strong evidence the dromedary camel is an important host species for transmitting MERS-CoV to humans. We strongly advise travellers to not drink camel milk or eat camel meat, and to avoid contact with camels in the Middle East.

“It is also very important to 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 leaving the Middle East, should contact their GP immediately by phone and mention their travel history.”

 

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