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Piligrims preparing to board a Haj flight from Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport last year. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Haj pilgrims must comply with immunisation requirements mandated by authorities in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Ministry of Health and Prevention announced on Tuesday.

Haj, the annual pilgrimage Muslims make to Makkah in Saudi Arabia, is slated for the first week of August.

Addressing a press conference in Dubai, Dr Nada Al Marzouqi, director of the ministry’s preventive medicine department, said that with Haj round the corner, pilgrims should visit primary health centres and clinics ahead of their travel to get an assessment of their medical condition and immunisation requirements.

“There are special tips for pilgrims with chronic diseases like diabetes, heart and respiratory problems,” she added.

Dr Laila Al Jasmi, head of the ministry’s vaccination department, said: “All pilgrims have to take the meningococcal vaccine and obtain a valid international certificate of vaccination. Taking the vaccine 15 days prior to travel is recommended.”

While the meningococcal vaccine is mandatory for all pilgrims, vaccines like yellow fever and polio are also a must for pilgrims from some specific countries. A third group of seasonal influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are not mandatory, but highly recommended. All the vaccines are available at primary health care centres and other clinics under the ministry, she said.

Dr Elham Al Neami, chairperson of Haj services at Dubai Health Authority, said the vaccines are free for Emiratis. Expatriates who undertake the Haj have to get themselves registered in their home countries, she said.

Dr Al Neami said a 24/7 hotline service would be made available in two weeks to cater to the pilgrims.

Dr Badir Al Najjar, director of auditing at the ministry and member of the pilgrim committee, said a special medical committee comprising 35 health care professionals, including doctors, nurses and paramedics, has been set up to cater to the pilgrims. The services will be available at Makkah, Madina and other places in Saudi Arabia.

Take note of:

Before travel: Visit a doctor a month before Haj; get a full medical check-up; get required vaccines 15 days before travel; obtain certificate; prepare first aid kit; pack medicines for a number of days of travel plus three extra days.

During travel: Take preventive measures to check respiratory distress, food poisoning and heat stroke; cover mouth and nose while coughing, sneezing; wash hands regularly; wear a face mask in crowded areas; wash fruits, vegetables you consume; check expiration of foods; drink lots of water; avoid direct exposure to sunlight.

After travel: Take enough rest; drink plenty of fluids; if you develop a fever and flu-like symptoms within two weeks of return, seek immediate medical attention; avoid close contact with others.