WHO EMRO Weekly Epidemiological Monitor: Volume 10, Issue 28 (9 July 2017)
Health advisories for travelers to Saudi Arabia, Hajj, 1438 H
Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is one of the largest and most longstanding annual mass gathering event in the world. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has issued Health conditions for travelers to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) – health requirements and recommendations in connection with performing hajj in 2017 (1438 H)
Every year, at the request of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the World Health Organization (WHO) publishes travel advice based on Saudi Arabia’s travel advisory that informs visitors of the requirements for entry into Saudi Arabia for Hajj and Umrah. However, these stipulated requirements and conditions do not imply an endorsement by WHO.
This year, the Hajj is expected to take place during the first week of September 2017, from the 9th to the 13th of Dhu'lHijjah (the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar). Hajj draws about 2 to 4 million Muslim pilgrims every year; at least 1.5 to 2 million pilgrims are foreign visitors.
The inevitable overcrowding due to the presence of such large numbers of people in a relatively confined area poses a unique health risk. Large mass gatherings such as Hajj and Umrah bring together people from all around the world, thus increasing the risk of infectious diseases of pandemic potential, and may amplify many infections.
During the current year, some infectious diseases continue to pose an additional health risk to pilgrims. These diseases include Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which emerged 5 years ago in Arabian Peninsula, and remains a health threat to pilgrims. Although no domestic transmission of Zika virus has been reported in Saudi Arabia, dengue fever which is transmitted through the same vector (Aedes mosquitoes) is endemic in cities around hajj premises.