Make an appointment to see your GP or travel clinic at least four weeks prior to departure to discuss your fitness to travel, what vaccines you need and what health precautions you should take. If you take regular medicines, make sure you take enough to cover the whole time you will be away and carry a doctor’s letter to avoid confusion at customs.
Make sure you review the advice published each year on the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health website which includes advice on the health requirements for receiving entry to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a new virus that has caused respiratory illness in a number of people in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. Most people infected with MERS-CoV had severe illness and pneumonia, and about half of them have died. Although the virus is not easily spread between people, there has been evidence of spread from person to person through extended close contact. Pilgrims living and travelling in close quarters may be at risk.
Pilgrims can help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by washing their handsoften; not touching their mouth, nose, or eyes; and avoiding contact with sick people. The Saudi Ministry of Health also recommends wearing masks in crowded places, avoiding direct contact with camels, avoiding undercooked camel meat and avoiding drinking raw camel milk. Pilgrims should pay attention to their health when travelling in the Arabian Peninsula, and seek medical care if they develop a fever and cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after returning from their trip. There is no vaccine currently available to protect against MERS-CoV.
All travellers should be up to date with their routine vaccinations including those against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (dTpa) and polio.
Following outbreaks of meningococcal disease in past years, there is a requirement for all Hajj pilgrims to show proof of meningococcal vaccinatioihn before Hajj visas can be issues. Hajj pilgrims must have had a quadrivalent (A/C/Y/W135) meningococcal vaccination within the previous 3 years (for polysaccharide vaccines) or previous 8 years (for conjugate vaccines) and at least 10 days before arriving in Saudi Arabia. Travellers from countries or areas at risk of Yellow Fever must also carry a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.
Seasonal influenza vaccine is also recommended for pilgrims. You should also discuss with your GP or travel clinic the need for additional vaccines such as those against pneumococcal pneuonia, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. Vaccinations should be completed at least 2 weeks prior to departure.
Tips for healthy travel
1. Hajj pilgrims should stay well hydrated, wear sunscreen, and seek shade when possible. Some rituals may also be performed at night to avoid daytime heat.
2. Drink water and beverages that are sealed or known to have been purified, and eat food that is served piping hot or fruit that you have peeled yourself.
3. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or disinfectant hand cleanser.
4. For shaving, be aware that unclean razors can transmit viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. Travellers should be shaved using disposable blades at officially designated centres, or use their own disposable blades and avoid sharing personal hygiene tools.
5. Follow road safety rules to avoid injuries. Take extra care when crossing roads and always wear a seatbelt when travelling in motor vehicles.
Try to avoid the most densely crowded areas during Hajj and, when options exist, perform rituals at non-peak hours.
What if I get sick?
If you get sick while overseas or on your return, seek prompt medical attention. If you become unwell on your return to your home country, be sure to advise your doctor of your recent travel to the Middle East. Be aware of how to manage travellers diarrhoea, including drinking plenty of fluids made up with oral rehydration salts (ORS) to avoid dehydration.
Be aware of the early symptoms of meningococcal disease which may include fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, weakness, neck stiffness and a rash. If you develop these symptoms you need to seek medical attention immediately.
Check the latest travel advice from the Australian Government:
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Smart Traveller information for Saudi Arabia
- Department of Health MERS-CoV information for travellers
Carefully review the travel health requirements and health information from the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health Hajj site (available in different languages): https://www.moh.gov.sa/en/Hajj/Pages/default.aspx
Real-time information during Hajj may be obtained from the Hajj Health Companion mobile phone app from the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health.