Health experts from the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK, a National Hajj/Umrah specific organisation working for the welfare and wellbeing of pilgrims, have issued a warning to Hajj pilgrims around the world who will converge at Makkah during the next few weeks to perform annual Hajj pilgrimage, that they must safeguard their health from the risk of deadly infectious diseases.
The pilgrims have always been at high risk of contracting infectious diseases due to their close proximity with millions of people during the pilgrimage, especially at ceremonies, accommodation sites and public transport. The infectious diseases can be transmitted through direct person-to-person contact via droplets, nasal or throat secretions of infected individuals. Close and prolonged contact with infected individuals (e.g. sneezing and coughing on someone) facilitates the spread of infection. Elderly people suffering from chronic diseases, i.e. lungs, heart, kidney, liver, diabetes, children, pregnant women, and those with immunity deficiency are specifically at higher risk of catching infectious diseases.
The health experts reminded the pilgrims suffering from diabetes and other chronic diseases about the high risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) due to excessive physical activities being undertaken amongst a large crowded environment. Heat and fatigue will be a great risk specifically to elderly, sick and frail people when temperatures in Makkah during the period of pilgrimage in August/September 2017, is expected to reach up to 40 degrees Celsius. They need to protect themselves from the sun, dehydration, exhaustion, foot problems, respiratory and bronchial illnesses, and they should wear special socks to avoid feet injuries and frictions. It is important that pilgrims should take an adequate supply of medicine with them.
Health experts express their grave concern that one of the major contributory factors which emerged out of 2015’s Hajj disaster was the ignorance and lack of awareness of health and safety precautionary measures amongst pilgrims. However, regrettably a large number of prospective pilgrims are still being deprived of life saving health and safety information. They strongly urge the relevant countries to take the pilgrimage related health and safety issues seriously. The World Health Organization also requires them to disseminate vital life-saving information amongst their prospective pilgrims.
“This will also ensure the elimination of the risk of the outbreak of deadly infectious diseases upon the return of the pilgrims to their countries of origin” said the health experts in a joint statement.