Every year over 125,000 British Hajj/Umrah pilgrims along with millions of people from all over the world, including pilgrims from countries in the traditional african meningitis belt, travel to Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimage. In such environments British pilgrims are at risk of infections including meningococcal disease because of crowded conditions at ceremonies, accommodation sites and on public transport.
As a result of an outbreak of meningococcal infection during Hajj pilgrimage there was a tragic loss of over 20 innocent lives amongst British Hajj pilgrims in recent years in the UK. Therefore the health experts from Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK in support of the first world Meningitis Day on 25th April 2009, issues a strong warning to all prospective Hajj/Umrah pilgrims that they must be vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis before travelling to Saudi Arabia.
The health experts warn the pilgrims that meningitis is a real and serious disease which is transmitted through direct person to person contact with droplets of nasal or throat secretions of infected individuals. Close and prolonged contact (e.g. sneezing and coughing on someone, etc.) facilitates the spread of infection. The most common symptoms are stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting.
Health experts also remind pilgrims that Meningitis vaccination is mandatory legal requirement by the Saudi authorities to issue them entry visa for Saudi Arabia.
Further advice and information about Meningitis is available from Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK, which is the Hajj specific National voluntary organisation and a registered charity working for the welfare and wellbeing of British Hajj/Umrah pilgrims and overseas travellers.