Senior doctors from the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH), a national Hajj/Umrah specific organisation working for the welfare and wellbeing of pilgrims, have issued a warning to prospective pilgrims to safeguard their health from the risk of deadly infectious diseases.

Over two million prospective Hajj pilgrims from around the world will converge at Makkah , Saudi Arabia next month for the Hajj pilgrimage. Pilgrims have always been at high risk of contracting infectious diseases due to the close proximity with millions of people during the Hajj pilgrimage, especially at ceremonies and while sharing accommodation 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, sharing an affected person’s used utensils) facilitates the spread of infection. Elderly and sick pilgrims suffering from chronic diseases (i.e. lungs, heart, kidney, liver, and diabetes), children, pregnant women, and those with immune deficiency are at a higher risk of catching infectious diseases.

Senior doctors from the ABH remind the pilgrims with diabetes and other chronic illnesses about the increased 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 as temperatures in Makkah are expected to reach up to 44 degrees Celsius during the Hajj period. They need to protect themselves from the sun, dehydration, exhaustion, foot problems, respiratory and bronchial illnesses, and they should wear special socks to avoid foot injuries and frictions. Pilgrims on medication need to take an adequate supply of medicines with them.

Regrettably, many countries are not taking the issue of their pilgrims’ health seriously. Initiatives to educate prospective pilgrims about preventative measures to avoid contracting these diseases are not being implemented vigorously. Due to the lack of awareness of this life-saving information, a vast majority of Hajj pilgrims are at a high risk of contracting infectious diseases.

All efforts should be made to implement the directives issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in which member countries are required to raise awareness amongst the prospective pilgrims of the risks of contracting the deadly and lethal infectious diseases, and the measures they should take to protect themselves.

‘This awareness is also extremely important in eliminating the risk of the spread of these deadly infectious diseases worldwide once the pilgrims return to their home countries,’ said senior doctors from the ABH, in a joint statement.