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Travel advice for pilgrims to Mecca (Hajj and Umrah)
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- For anyone over 2 years of age, Saudi health authorities require vaccination against meningococcal disease (ACWY vaccine). You must bring an International Certificate of Vaccination to document completed vaccination and show this when entering Saudi Arabia. Vaccination must be at least 10 days before you arrive in the country and no later than three years for the polysaccharide vaccine and five years for the conjugate vaccine. The name of the vaccine must be on the vaccination certificate. In Norway in recent years, we have used conjugate vaccines that protect against serogroups A, C, W and Y. The conjugate vaccine can be given to children from 6 weeks of age. (Polysaccharide vaccine has not been available in Norway since 2012.)
- Vaccination against seasonal influenza is recommended, regardless of the time of year. This applies in particular to people in risk groups with an increased risk of a severe disease course and death from influenza.
- If you come to Saudi Arabia from some African and South American countries, you are required to be vaccinated against yellow fever. Read more about the yellow fever vaccine in the article Which travel vaccines do I need?
- Polio vaccination is required for travellers arriving from some African and Asian countries where the polio virus is circulating. Read more in the article about polio vaccination for stays in countries with polio outbreaks. Saudi health authorities require vaccinations from many countries and will also vaccinate all travellers from certain countries upon arrival in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi health authorities write about this on their website about Hajj and entry requirements.
- For some, it may be appropriate to have a vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine) and a vaccine against hepatitis B.
- Everyone should be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio. Adults who have been initially vaccinated should take a booster dose of the vaccine against these diseases approximately every 10 years.
- Everyone should be vaccinated against COVID-19 according to their country's recommendation.
Avoid mosquito bites
Dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases can occur in Saudi Arabia. Protect against mosquito bites by using mosquito repellents, protective clothing that covers as much of the body as possible and mosquito nets in doors and windows.
General advice to prevent infection
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water (use hand disinfectants if necessary). This advice applies especially before eating or preparing food, as well as after using the toilet.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands when out in public.
- Use a paper tissue in front of your mouth to protect others when you cough or sneeze. Dispose after use then wash your hands.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow if paper tissues are unavailable.
- Avoid direct contact with infected people (with symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhoea) or their possessions.
- Maintain good personal hygiene.
Food and water
- Use caution when eating at food stands. Avoid meat that is not thoroughly cooked or unpasteurised milk (particularly camel milk).
- Drink bottled water.
- Make sure that fruit and vegetables are washed thoroughly with clean water before consumption.
- Only sealed / canned foods or foods in small packages that can be easily inspected may be brought into Saudi Arabia.
If you become ill on the journey
- Have valid travel insurance.
- Bring plenty of your regular medicines, and medicine for diarrhoea. Drink extra liquids if you need to compensate for fluid loss (such as diarrhoea and / or an extra hot climate). Bring salts for oral rehydration solutions (to replace fluid and salt loss). These are available from pharmacies in Norway.
- If you feel ill during your stay, seek help from available health professionals.
- Use only antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. Unnecessary and incorrect use of antibiotics contributes to the development of resistant bacteria. Do not buy antibiotics while travelling that are not prescribed by a doctor.
- Take special care with hygiene if you become ill with diarrhoea or influenza-like symptoms, so that you avoid spreading the disease to others.
Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic / serious diseases
For children under 12 years and pregnant women, it is advisable to postpone the pilgrimage. If you are over 65 years of age, or have a chronic illness (e.g., cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, lung disease, diabetes, immune deficiency) or other serious illness, you should contact a doctor well in advance of the trip to assess whether you should travel.
If you have an underlying condition, you should consult your doctor to assess if it is advisable to go on a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages can be a severe physical strain and you should be in good health when you go.
MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome)
When travelling to Hajj and Umrah, you should follow the advice to avoid MERS.
MERS is caused by a respiratory virus that circulates among camels / dromedaries, especially in the Middle East. It can cause acute and severe respiratory tract infections in humans. Several countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, occasionally report new cases and deaths due to MERS. Most cases have been registered among people who have had contact with camels / dromedaries, or close contact with MERS patients.
In particular, the elderly or people with underlying condition (such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, cancer, weakened immune system) can have a severe disease course. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for MERS. No advice has been given about travel restrictions to any of the countries where MERS-CoV is registered. The World Health Organization does not advise against travel to the region. As long as you follow the advice, there is little risk of infection with MERS on a pilgrimage.
Preventive advice for MERS
As with all infections, good hand hygiene is an important preventive measure, both during the journey and to limit transmission. The source of infection is camels / dromedaries. Avoid contact with animals, and especially camels / dromedaries when traveling to the Middle East. Avoid drinking camel milk and camel urine, as well as eating inadequately heat-treated meat. If you become ill during the trip, contact your local health professional for follow-up. Avoid coughing on other people and be careful with hand hygiene so as not to infect others.
After you get home
Hajj and Umrah can be physically strenuous for many, and some will have ailments such as stomach problems or respiratory problems after returning home. It is important that you see a doctor if you have signs of severe respiratory problems, such as pneumonia, within two weeks of returning home. Symptoms may include cough, fever, chest pain or difficulty breathing. If you have underlying conditions and become ill after returning home from the Middle East (not just pneumonia) you should also consult a doctor.
If you develop symptoms of infection after the trip, or for some other reason need health care, tell your doctor where you have been. This is especially important if you have received health care or dental treatment abroad or have stayed for a long time in a country with a high incidence of resistant bacteria. The doctor may need this information to give the correct treatment for an infection, or to prevent other patients from becoming infected if you need to be admitted to a healthcare institution.