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Disease Outbreak News

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ministry Takes Measures to Ensure a Healthy Haj

Ministry Takes Measures to Ensure a Healthy Haj

Mohammed Rasooldeen & Ali Al-Zahrani, Arab News RIYADH, 25 May 2006
The Kingdom has instructed all its overseas missions to emphasize the health guidelines while issuing Haj visas for foreign pilgrims, a Haj Ministry spokesman announced yesterday.
While there are no new specific requirements, the Haj Ministry has embarked on an effort to reiterate via Saudi Arabia’s foreign missions the importance of health considerations among the guests of God.
First and foremost, pilgrims should take proper health measures to prevent the spread of communicable infections, to get orientated about the health challenges of the Haj and should inform authorities of any significant health problems upon entry to the Kingdom.
Khaled Al-Marghalani, general supervisor for communications and health awareness at the ministry, told Arab News yesterday that the Saudi government is stepping up efforts to ensure pilgrims adhere to these guidelines.
“The Ministry of Health has sent out circulars through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to all Saudi foreign missions to adhere to the guidelines strictly when visas are issued at their ends,” he said.
About two million pilgrims come here for the Haj through visas issued by Saudi embassies and consulates. All of these pilgrims convene in the weeks prior to the six-day pilgrimage, creating major challenges in crowd control and safety in the world’s largest annual assembly of people.
Al-Marghalani pointed out that some of the diseases are imported into the country due to lack of preventive measures taken by the foreign pilgrims and their governments.
The Foreign Ministry had advised its missions to request overseas Haj travel operators to organize orientation programs to educate the pilgrims on basic health rules to be followed during their stay in the holy cities.
Al-Marghalani said the ministry has instructed the pilgrims to produce vaccination certificates against yellow fever, meningitis, polio and influenza depending on the countries of origin. Vaccinations against meningitis, which are valid for three years, have been made compulsory on all pilgrims since it can easily spread among crowds through droplets of saliva.
Al-Marghalani said that his ministry has installed cameras and has instructed immigration officers to monitor any suspected cases of infected pilgrims entering the Kingdom through all ports of entry.

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